The construction contract for a flyover project linking U.S. 278 with Bluffton Parkway was approved Monday.
Beaufort County Council voted 9-2 to award a $36.7 million construction contract to R.R. Dawson Bridge Co. of Lexington, Ky. It also awarded a $3.8 million construction management contract to F&ME Consultants of Columbia.
The vote followed a last-minute push by flyover opponents and last Tuesday's vote of no confidence by Hilton Head Town Council.
"As the traffic builds up on 278, we are going to be very glad we did this," said County Councilman Steve Baer.
Councilman Stu Rodman, who proposed an alternate road design that would have eliminated the flyover in the short-term, voted against the contracts. He was joined by Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch, who wanted more time to study alternatives and clarify the plan for residents.
Rodman, whose plan gained some late traction, said he worried the county would be making a mistake by building the flyover.
"I've always been concerned that if we built this, that it may turn out to be an embarrassment for us," he said, suggesting traffic volumes don't justify the project.
The flyover plan calls for a new road starting at the intersection of Bluffton Parkway and Buckingham Plantation Drive that would cross the marsh between The Gatherings and Buckingham Landing. Two flyover bridges would connect with the eastbound and westbound lanes of U.S. 278 and the parkway near the bridge to Hilton Head.
Monday's vote caps nearly a decade of planning, design, permitting and other preparations. Voters approved the project in concept when they passed the 2006 transportation sales-tax referendum. Funding will come from that source, county impact fees and $15 million in state money.
Some flyover opponents have argued that while they voted for the sales tax during the referendum, they never signed off on overpasses. Others have cited the cost of the project, lack of need and concerns about spoiling the views to the island.
Many of those same points were made at Monday's meeting in the Bluffton library by about 10 people who spoke against it.
Tom Gardo, consultant for the group Citizens to Stop the Flyover, argued that local money directed toward the flyover could go a long way toward improving existing roads. He also suggested that the $15 million in state funding for the flyover, which would be lost if the project were killed, could be used better elsewhere.
Hilton Head Town Councilman Lee Edwards, who several months ago vowed to block the flyover, said the project was not needed and "not right for our community."
"Sometimes I have to remind my wife, just because there is a sale, doesn't mean you need another pair of shoes," he said. "I think here we have a great solution to a problem that doesn't exist. We do not have a traffic problem."
Others spoke in favor of the plan.
Henry Sanders of Hilton Head believes that like the Cross Island Parkway, a toll road built on Hilton Head that had been controversial, the flyover will be a success. He also said there have been plenty of meetings and news articles about the project over the years.
"I don't consider this something someone dreamed up in a basement a couple weeks ago," he said.
Tanger Outlets Centers in greater Bluffton and the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce also reiterated their support for the plan.
Aside from Baer and Rodman, each of whom prepared presentations, there was little County Council debate on the contracts.
Councilman Rick Caporale, who voted for the contracts, said he hoped opponents weren't proven right. He also praised Rodman for his scrutiny of the project.
With the contracts approved, county staff can begin negotiations with R.R. Dawson that could reduce the project's cost. That process is known as "value engineering" and can only begin after the contract is signed.
Flyover construction, once it begins, is expected to last 30 months. The total cost is estimated at no more than $45 million, including about $4 million set aside for contingencies.
- Final vote set for Bluffton Parkway flyover contract, Feb. 22, 2013
- Hilton Head rebuke adds wrinkle to Bluffton Parkway flyover fight
- Hilton Head Council votes to yank support for Bluffton Parkway flyover plan, Feb. 19 2013
- Bluffton flyover opponents make final push; County says recent ad distorts facts, Feb. 18, 2013