Beaufort is getting spruced up one street at a time, and now it's Ribaut Road's turn.
Improvements to the road are expected to start near Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Technical College of the Lowcountry's Beaufort Campus, said Craig Lewis of the city Office of Civic Investment.
Intersections will get improved crosswalks with pedestrian-activated traffic signals. Crosswalks also will be built in the middle of blocks in some areas and have the same signal technology.
Planners hope the crosswalks, along with new tree-lined medians, narrower lanes and more signs, will encourage motorists to drive the speed limit.
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"It's very important that we put in physical improvements that say, 'Slow down,'" Lewis said.
Wide street lanes with few intersections encourage speeding, he said. Concerns about speeding led to an improved crosswalk at Allison Road for hospital employees two months ago.
"There's not an officer in this city that couldn't go down there and write as many tickets as they want right now," City Councilman Mike Sutton said.
The city first will focus on two segments of Ribaut Road: Reynolds Street to Allison Road and Allison Road to Waddell Road.
The first segment would remain four lanes wide, but it would be narrower and have trees, sidewalks and bike paths on both sides. One option would add a tree-lined median in the middle of the road.
Planners also want the second segment, between Allison and Waddell roads, to remain four lanes, but with a median in the middle. The plan also calls for bike paths or sidewalks and trees on both sides.
Also in the planning stages are improvements on Allison Road from Ribaut Road to a walking and bike trail being built along the former Magnolia Line railroad. Allison Road would be two lanes with trees on both sides, as well as a sidewalk on the southern side and a bike path on the northern side.
Kathy Lindsay of the Hermitage Road Area Neighborhood Association has asked the city for more information about Ribaut Road changes. Among her concerns is a proposal to narrow a stretch north of Reynolds Street from four lanes to three. She believes narrowing the road would make it unsafe for drivers.
That section of Ribaut is lined with homes and driveways and is notorious for speeders. A narrower road, she said, would cause turning drivers to cross traffic from a turn lane or slow down and block traffic while turning.
Beaufort City Councilman George O'Kelley has voiced concerns that narrower roads could lead to more accidents because drivers could drift out of their lanes more easily.
Lewis said crash statistics on wider and narrower roads don't indicate a significant difference in the number of accidents.
Funding for the Ribaut Road improvements remains uncertain, but the Office of Civic Investment intends to apply for grants from the same sources used to pay for other road improvements in the city.
The Boundary Street improvement project, for example, is being paid for with a $12.6 million TIGER II federal grant and $13.7 million in local funds.