Now that the last of the old theater has been hauled away, Hilton Head Island officials say work is set to begin on a new roundabout and pathway at the intersection of Arrow Road and Dunnagans Alley.
A demolition crew finished tearing down the final wall of a warehouse last week that once housed the Dunnagan's Alley Theatre. The building, which was more than 30 years old, was razed to make way for green space and parking, town manager Steve Riley said.
The town spent $635,000 of tax increment financing revenue to purchase the .42-acre parcel from the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina in 2006. About $27,000 was spent on the demolition, and Town Council budgeted $880,000 to build the traffic circle.
Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities, said roundabout construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed by the end of June.
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The roundabout is expected to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce wrecks at the intersection, according to town traffic and transportation engineer Darrin Shoemaker.
"At mid-day and during the afternoon peak period around quitting time, it can be difficult to make a left turn and a through movement from Dunnagans Alley," he said.
About 12,000 vehicles pass through the intersection each day. More than 1,000 drive by during peak hours in the afternoon and evening, with two-thirds traveling on Arrow Road and one-third on Dunnagans Alley, according a 2009 traffic count.
Shoemaker said an intersection with that much traffic would typically merit a traffic signal, but concerns arose about backups that might be caused by a signal 450 feet away at Arrow Road and William Hilton Parkway.
He said a roundabout does a better job of keeping traffic flowing. The roundabout should also improve safety, as motorists are forced to slow down to navigate the circle, he said.
"If you do have accidents at the intersection, they're (more) low-speed fender-benders than perhaps a T-bone at a traffic signal where someone ran the light," Shoemaker said. "Fortunately, the intersection hasn't been a high-traffic collision generator, but we've had some. We expect there will be fewer with a roundabout."
The project includes replacing on-street bike lanes on Arrow Road with paved, off-street paths.
"Improved safety is a large benefit of our project," Shoemaker said, "for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians."
The project is part of a plan to revitalize the area with pedestrian-friendly shopping geared toward tourists. The town hopes the changes will encourage someone to bring a restaurant and retail store to a building northwest of the intersection.
The town also wants to build a park at the corner of Arrow Road and William Hilton Parkway but might not have the money to do so, Riley said.