Actual construction of the Boundary Street redevelopment project is near, and the public needs to pay attention.
The city of Beaufort and the state Department of Transportation must help the public brace for change. Dirt could start moving this winter, according to a recent update to City Council.
The $26.3 million project -- approved by the city in 2006 -- will bring major changes to Boundary Street between Ribaut Road and Robert Smalls Parkway. With Boundary Street serving about 40,000 vehicles a day as the primary artery into and out of Beaufort, even a small change could have a large impact on the public.
The project will realign the busy intersection of Boundary Street (U.S. 21) and Robert Smalls Parkway (S.C. 170) at Beaufort Plaza. It is supposed to narrow Boundary Street, but keep two lanes in each direction. The center turn lane would be replaced by a raised median. Bike paths, a more pedestrian-friendly sidewalk and new trees would be added. A parallel road is to run on the north side of Boundary Street.
None of these changes has come without criticism. But the time to argue "traffic calming" theories is past. Now is the time for residents and businesses to be told precisely what to expect during a construction period that the plans say will last 2 <00BD> years.
At a public presentation and question-and-answer session a year ago, it was said work would probably begin near the intersection of Robert Smalls Parkway and Boundary Street and continue east to Ribaut Road. The goal is to disrupt businesses and traffic as little as possible during construction, and public information workshops were to be held quarterly.
A lot of information is available on the city's website (www.cityof beaufort.org). It helps remind the public what this is all about: "The city of Beaufort and Beaufort County seek to transform Boundary Street from a strip commercial corridor into a complete, compact and connected mixed-use district that supports a more walkable, livable and sustainable community with multimodal forms of transport. Strategic infrastructure improvements of the Boundary Street Redevelopment District include complete streets, the retrofit of suburbia, improved mobility options, and enhanced connectivity."
The project is a partnership among the city, Beaufort County, the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. But the most vocal partner will be the public. When change starts showing up on Boundary Street, a lot that was talked about in public meetings years ago will have been forgotten. It's time for another public chat on exactly what to expect, where and when.