Bluffton Town Council members vowed Tuesday to keep S.C. 46 a two-lane highway -- a longstanding priority for residents --and to connect it with All Joy Road, joining the two state scenic byways through old town Bluffton.
The resolutions passed during a council meeting Tuesday night are part of an effort by Bluffton to have S.C. 46 designated a national scenic byway.
Council faced some criticism in the past for not acting to preserve the road. Mayor Lisa Sulka said with other pressing issues and staff turnover, protecting the road had likely not received the attention it deserved until residents urged the council to focus on it.
Seeking national scenic byway status is a "costly, timely process", Sulka said, but one that may yield national recognition and preserve "the last two-lane byway for any length in this part of the county".
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The state Department of Transportation did not recommend the road for a national scenic byway designation last year and advised the town to implement a number of reforms before seeking the status again.
Among those reforms was creating a network of scenic byways and pledging to preserve the character of the oak-canopied S.C. 46. In addition, state scenic byway officials recommended the town clarify its zoning and business ordinance, remove billboards and increase the number of historical markers to increase its chances of receiving the designation. The state recommends roads for national byway designation to the federal government.
Town staff ultimately decided to connect S.C. 46 and All Joy through Bridge and Boundary streets after considering several other options. At the Bluffton Planning Commission meeting last month, board members said that connection would be a better option than connecting through Calhoun Street, which might be closed for town festivals, and Wharf Street, a largely residential road.
"There's a few things on Boundary Street we won't find elsewhere," assistant town manager Marc Orlando told the council. He cited the Heyward House Historic Center as an example.
Town staff working on the project looked to various town documents in deciding the connection, including the S.C. 46 Corridor Management Plan, created by a consultant in 2007 as one of the requirements for seeking national scenic byway designation. That plan will be updated before the town presents the new proposal to the state scenic byway committee. The committee requires a site visit. The new road connection must ultimately be approved by the state legislature, which reconvenes in 2011.
If that happens, the town can seek national scenic byway status.