An accident-prone stretch of William Hilton Parkway might get a stoplight to help prevent collisions.
Hilton Head Island's Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday to recommend an intersection project on the parkway between two median crossings near the Fresh Market shopping center and the Hargray Communications campus.
An average of 4.2 preventable accidents have occurred on the 1,000-foot stretch since July 2008, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and a consultant. Federal Highway Administration policy says a traffic signal should be considered if there are five preventable crashes per year.
"This is either the worst or at least one of the worst locations on the island that we haven't accomplished a safety project yet," said town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker.
The new intersection would have four-way traffic lights, bike and pedestrian crossings and a road connecting the intersection to a service road linking the Fresh Market Shoppes, Hargray and Hilton Head Island Community Church.
Construction could begin in September and cost the town about $1 million, according to town engineers.
The plan also would close two of the parkway's median crossings near the proposed intersection. The crossings currently serve the shopping center and entrances to Hargray and Hilton Head Island Community Church.
In addition to addressing traffic safety, the intersection would improve emergency vehicle access to Leamington and allow drivers leaving the neighborhood to turn left onto the parkway.
Not everyone at Wednesday's meeting liked the plan.
Because the Hargray buildings and the church are past the proposed intersection, westbound drivers looking for them won't know to turn left at the intersection and will make U-turns at the next opening in the median near the Heritage Library, said Mark Reinhardt, administration director at Hargray.
"They're going to drive the problem further down 278," Reinhardt said.
Assistant town engineer Jennifer Lyle said town staff will consider putting signs near the intersection to inform drivers that Hargray, the church and the grocery store are accessible from the intersection.
Reinhardt said the changes would take traffic into Hargray's staff parking lots. The median crossing near Hargray should remain open, he said.
The S.C. Department of Transportation approved the conceptual plan on the condition that the median crossings be closed, town engineers said.
Leaving the Hargray crossing open would also violate a town policy of not having median crossings closer than 1,000 feet to one another, Shoemaker said.
Before the plan for the new intersection is considered further by the town, it will go to the DOT, where details such as signs, pavement design and turn-lane lengths will be reviewed.