Kudos to the S.C. Department of Transportation and Beaufort County for taking the safety of parishioners and students at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church seriously.
DOT recently installed yellow, flashing lights to alert drivers on U.S. 278 of school arrival and dismissal times as well as the 45 mph speed limit. And county engineers have reset the timing of the traffic light at the entrance to Rose Hill Plantation, giving more time for parishioners and parents to exit the church and school parking lot.
But these are Band-Aid solutions at best. No one should believe this is now a safe stretch of road.
A two-car wreck outside the church's entrance earlier this month killed a Hilton Head Island man, according to Deputy Coroner David Ott. (Law enforcement officials do not believe it was caused by a driver attempting to turn right into the church.)
And since all U.S. 278 lanes opened in November, several parishioners have been involved in crashes at the church's entrance, according to Chris Trott, the school's principal. Luckily, these have just been fender benders. But, as we've said before, more serious crashes are certain to occur. The permanent fix is a new frontage road connecting St. Gregory the Great to the traffic light at Buckwalter Parkway at the Berkeley Hall entrance and the stoplight at the Bluffton Township Fire District.
While the county has all the permits required for the road construction project, Berkeley Hall neighbors are holding the work up with a lawsuit. Property owners worry that the proposed road would increase traffic and make the entrance into their community less safe. Last month, they rejected a settlement offer from the county.
Berkeley Hall general manager Adrian Morris has said the community's property owners association will meet soon to discuss its negotiations with the county.
It's time for these community members to do their part to make the portion of U.S. 278 in front of their neighborhood safer for themselves, for St. Gregory the Great and for drivers at large.
There simply doesn't seem to be any other solution than a frontage road. As Beaufort County administrator Gary Kubic put it, it is the only feasible, long-term solution for traffic safety.
If Berkeley Hall residents have a better solution in mind, it's time to share it with the county and work out a deal rather than just saying no to the county's plan. The stalemate must end before someone is seriously hurt.