Roundabout construction to divert traffic at Mathews and Beach City

Motorists can expect detours beginning next week as work begins on a roundabout at Beach City Road and Mathews Drive on Hilton Head Island.

The roundabout is being constructed to slow traffic through the Y-shaped intersection. Drivers travel so fast around the curve from Beach City Road onto Mathews Drive, and vice versa, that many fail to yield to oncoming traffic, said town traffic and transportation engineer Darrin Shoemaker.

Several collisions at the intersection have resulted.

"It's not one of our red-flag intersections, but we have had collisions there that we expect will decrease with construction of the roundabout," Shoemaker said.

The intersection's configuration, with its skewed angles, makes it difficult to place stop signs drivers can see before arriving at the intersection, Shoemaker said. The roundabout will "calm" traffic by forcing motorists to slow down, which should reduce the number of collisions, town engineer Jeff Buckalew said.

"Instead of having T-bone collisions that you typically see at intersections, you get fender-benders with glancing blows (in roundabouts)," Buckalew said.

The roundabout will make a traffic signal unnecessary, Shoemaker said.

About 16,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day, according to recent town traffic counts.

Motorists will be detoured around the construction work onto Cardinal Road beginning next week, Shoemaker said. Beach City Road east of Mathews Drive will be closed.

Local traffic will be allowed on Mathews Drive to get to businesses. Local traffic will be able turn left from Mathews Drive onto Beach City Road. Drivers also will be able to turn from Beach City Road west of the intersection onto Mathews Drive, Shoemaker said.

Construction is expected to last four months.

A pathway is being built on the west side of Mathews Drive from William Hilton Parkway. It will cross the roundabout and connect to an existing pathway on the north side of Beach City Road.

"This segment of pathway plays an important part in the connectivity of the pathway network and will provide Beach City and Palmetto Hall residents a directly connected pedestrian route to the Folly Field and Islander Beach parks, and many shopping areas, as well," Buckalew wrote in an e-mail.

A left-turn lane will be added at Beach City Road for those entering Palmetto Hall at Fort Howell Drive.

The town is expected to spend about $814,000 in tax increment financing revenue to build the roundabout and pathway, Buckalew said.

Tax-increment finance districts allow municipalities to collect taxes to spur revitalization in blighted areas. When money collected from taxes in a TIF district increases because property values increase, the excess pays for local development projects.