If a proposed 1 percent sales tax referendum makes the November ballot, it could include several road improvements from around Beaufort County.
Beaufort County and Town of Bluffton officials presented 30 proposals to the Capital Project Sales Tax Commission on Monday night in Bluffton. Chief among them was the proposed realignment of a 2.5-mile stretch of Bluffton Parkway, but improvements from Hilton Head Island to Seabrook were included in the nearly two-hour meeting.
The county and Bluffton were the only two presenters at Monday's meeting at the Bluffton Public Library. Both led off with Bluffton Parkway Phase 5B, which would realign a section of the road running from Buckwalter Parkway to Buck Island Road.
The road currently dives to the south in a "dogleg" around the Pinecrest neighborhood. The proposed route would eliminate that, taking a more direct path near current utility lines.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka and County Administrator Gary Kubic said the parkway realignment was the last remaining item from the previous sales tax referendum, which was approved in 2006.
Sulka said the realignment would open opportunities for commercial growth, and would be part of a hurricane evacuation route potentially stretching to Interstate 95.
However, commission members were concerned by the realignment's estimated $28 million price tag. Bluffton assistant town manager James Ayers said that estimate allows for the costs of inspection, acquiring necessary land from SCE&G and Santee Cooper, and engineering and design in addition to construction costs.
"That's an unbelievable amount for three miles," Vice Chairman Scott Richardson said. "I've never seen a number that big."
In addition to the parkway realignment, Sulka discussed improvements to the May River Watershed Area and road improvements inside Buckwalter Place.
Sulka proposed adding sewer connections in three of the six areas that lack them: Stoney Creek, Old Town Bluffton, and Alljoy and Myrtle Island.
For Buckwalter Place, construction of a service road, a planned entrance to the development, was proposed. The road would connect to the northern spur of the circle at the center of the complex and create a northern entrance on Buckwalter Parkway, Sulka said.
County traffic engineer Colin Kinton also proposed the design and engineering for Bluffton Parkway Phase 6, which would connect S.C. 170 to Interstate 95 at a new exit south of Hardeeville. Richardson expressed concern over Phase 6, since the majority of that planned route would lie in Jasper County.
Kinton presented 25 projects to the commission Monday, which combined carry an estimated cost of more than $89 million.
Several of Kinton's proposals concerned adding pathways and sidewalks around Beaufort County, including the extension of the Spanish Moss Rail Trail over Robert Smalls Parkway and north to Whale Branch Early College High School.
Road improvements along U.S. 278 from the county line to Hilton Head Island were also proposed, ranging from upgraded traffic signals to new intersections on the highway at Pinckney Island and Windmill Harbour.
One of Kinton's proposals -- the construction of a "spine road" in Port Royal running from Ribaut Road to the waterfront along Battery Creek -- stirred the possibility of the sales tax supporting the purchase of the empty S.C. Ports Authority property.
Richardson said rather than funding the road project, which would cost about $5 million, the tax could go toward buying the vacant property from the Ports Authority. The Ports Authority wants $18 million for the entire property, despite calls for the organization to sell the land in parts.
The commission meets next at 6:30 p.m. May 12 at Whale Branch Early College High School in Seabrook.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.