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Northern Beaufort County's entrance gets sprucing up, while southern projects hit delay

Beaufort County officials want to give motorists crossing the Broad River Bridge into northern Beaufort County a sense of arrival.

Crews from Martin Landscape of Beaufort will wrap up a $140,000 project later this month designed to spruce up the Beaufort side of the span and the intersection of S.C. 170 and S.C. 802.

"We wanted to create the sense of a gateway into northern Beaufort County," said Suzanne Larson, county spokeswoman. "The Broad River Bridge is the major traffic artery into northern Beaufort County."

Since mid-June, crews have planted 39 crape myrtles, 24 palmettos, 31 live oaks and more than 4,300 shrubs at the Broad River Bridge, said Wade Martin, owner of Martin Landscape.

The project, part of a plan in 2001 to construct the bridge that spans the Broad River, was funded by the Reforestation Trust Fund, which developers pay into to replace trees they cut down during construction projects, according to county records.

Designed by J.K. Tiller Associates of Bluffton, the project will include planting wildflowers, native grasses, shrubs and trees in the median between the north and south lanes of S.C. 170, along the sides of the highway and near the entrance of the Broad River Fishing Pier.

Larson said the S.C. Department of Transportation helped contractors and the county complete the project quickly.

"This project has required lots of weekend work to avoid rush hour traffic, so we've had to work really closely with DOT to help us with lane closures while they planted those trees in the median," she said.

SOUTHERN ENTRANCE

Several business and government leaders want the medians on U.S. 278 in southern Beaufort County to look similar to the recently revamped median at the Broad River Bridge. But the recession has delayed those plans, one of the project's leaders said.

"This is a great project, everyone supports it, but the reality is this is probably not the best time to implement it," said Brian Doench, who leads a Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce committee pushing the project.

Organizers had wanted plants to be in the ground along portions of the road from the Jasper County line to the bridges connecting to Hilton Head Island by last winter. But they scrapped those plans so Beaufort County could hire the Tiller firm to craft a cohesive design for the road's medians.

Those plans are finished, but the county has yet to approve them. Because the recession has sapped public and private resources, it's unlikely anything new will be planted "for at least another year or so," Doench said.

Landscaping expenses can vary widely, depending on the size and configuration of medians, but Doench said some of U.S. 278's medians could cost $100,000 or more each.

County planning director Tony Criscitiello expects county administrator Gary Kubic soon will schedule a meeting with him and project designer J.K. Tiller Associates to determine how to proceed.

Doench encouraged residents who support the project to contact county officials or him at 843-422-6478.

Designer Josh Tiller said U.S. 278's medians would look similar to the Broad River Bridge median.

"It would definitely give a sense of arrival," Tiller said. "We want to make this a gateway to Hilton Head and southern Beaufort County."

Some Jasper County leaders have also expressed interest in landscaping medians on the other side of the county line, Doench said.

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