As a $33 million Beaufort road project takes final shape, residents are still airing concerns about navigating the 1.2-mile stretch of Boundary Street almost two years after ground was broken.
Signs placed along Boundary Street this week by an anonymous citizen hint at some lingering angst, though city officials say the feelings are misplaced.
In his weekly newsletter, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling decried a “stupid sign” placed in front of City Hall. The red sign greeted drivers as they headed west away from downtown and entered the work zone:
“$33 million & NO BIKE LANE
Vote no on the 1(cent) tax increase”
Another sign asked for accountability in how the money on the project is being spent, Keyserling said.
Money for the work comes from a federal grant, a Beaufort County penny tax and a special city tax district.
In a Facebook post this week, Beaufort builder and commercial real estate broker Billy Gavigan said the new raised concrete medians would “possibly destroy” some of the businesses along the key commercial thoroughfare.
Gavigan said he supports what planners are trying to do to create a safer, more aesthetically pleasing thoroughfare. But the medians cut the access and traffic counts businesses needs to thrive, he said.
“It’s not the view that makes a corporation put the business where it is,” Gavigan said.
There are areas of Boundary Street where businesses are doing well and areas they aren’t, project manager Neal Pugliese said. Those struggles may be due to the construction or corporate issues, he said.
Retailer Kmart and restaurant chain Applebee’s have recently closed their Boundary Street locations, though both were among a slew of the stores closing nationwide.
Pugliese pointed to remodeling at the Atlantic Inn, plans to replace Econo Lodge with a SpringHill Suites and other redevelopment along the corridor as evidence not everyone was discouraged.
He noted that there are three points where drivers can make U-turns and that the new configuration will take time to learn.
“I’m sure there are some who are frustrated,” Pugliese said. “The road is in its final configuration now. I’d say rather than jumping to conclusions at this point, I’d see how the next two or three months roll before making a final judgment.”
Contractor Preferred Materials has until May to finish the road work, though city officials say the work is ahead of schedule and on budget.
The final look will include the removal of utility poles after the cables were buried underground. The medians and slightly narrower lanes are designed to calm traffic and make the roadway safer.
Wider pathways are designed for walking, running and recreational biking, though they might not be conducive to more serious road bicyclists, Pugliese said.
Keyserling and Pugliese say they don’t know who placed the signs along the roadway or why they were removed. If they were in the right of way, S.C. Department of Transportation officials or code enforcement likely picked them up, Pugliese said.
“Tell me this sign is not stupid,” Keyserling wrote in his newsletter.
He responded to the complaint about the bike lane by pointing to the path that could conceivably be used by bicycles and said costs are being overseen carefully by the various government entities.
A call for the identity of the sign-maker on The Beaufort Gazette’s Facebook page was unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon, though the post drew dozens of passionate responses.