Buckwalter traffic backs up while county, town negotiate signal costs

Residents of four neighborhoods along Buckwalter Parkway will get the traffic signal they say is needed at a dangerous intersection, but it won't come as soon as hoped.

The light probably is still a few months away, delayed while the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County try to decide how to divvy up its $100,000 cost.

"I'm just waiting to see exactly how long it is going to take," said Ronnie Burt, a resident of one of the neighborhoods with main entries along Lake Point Drive. The others are Sandy Point, Arborwood and the Willows. Combined, the neighborhoods contain more than 700 homes.

Earlier this month, a Parker's gas station opened at the intersection of Lake Point Drive and Buckwalter Parkway, where there is a stop sign, causing more congestion. Left turns into and out of the developments have now become nearly impossible, Burt said. The intersection has been the site of numerous near collisions, including one involving a school bus, Burt added.

The neighborhoods are in unincorporated Beaufort County, but because Buckwalter Parkway also runs through Bluffton, the town and county collaborate to address traffic problems there.

In July, the county granted Parker's permit request for an access point on Buckwalter Parkway across from Lake Point Drive. The permit called for a "temporary" stoplight while the town and county deliberated on the possibility of a roundabout.

County traffic and transportation engineer Colin Kinton said the county was waiting for the town to decide on the roundabout before installing the light. The town opted against it about a month ago.

Ultimately, the town decided a signal was a quicker solution to a pressing problem, according to assistant town manager Marc Orlando.Even though the stoplight will not be within town limits, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said the town would pitch in for the safety of county residents.

"It has taken a very long time for the different governments to agree," she said.

Sulka said the light should have been up before Parker's opened.

After Bluffton and the county decide who will pay for what, the county Planning Commission and County Council must sign off on a change to the county's access management plan before it can be installed.

Kinton estimated the traffic light would be up within 90 days.

The light will be coordinated with another light at an intersection nearby on Buckwalter Parkway to minimize traffic congestion, Kinton said.