Beaufort News

Beaufort County, city work to resolve traffic study ‘turf war’

The intersection with Lady’s Island Drive and Sams Point Road will be considered among possible improvements to Sea Island Parkway during an upcoming traffic study. Residents have expressed concern about more cars on the road when developments like Walmart are completed.
The intersection with Lady’s Island Drive and Sams Point Road will be considered among possible improvements to Sea Island Parkway during an upcoming traffic study. Residents have expressed concern about more cars on the road when developments like Walmart are completed. sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com

Beaufort County and the City of Beaufort moved closer Monday to resolving a conflict over who should responsible for paying for a traffic study along the Sea Island Parkway corridor on Lady’s Island.

County officials balked earlier this month at a request by the city that the county carry the full burden of paying for the nearly $88,000 study — sparking what Rep. Shannon Erickson described as a “turf war” between the two entities.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling and city manager Bill Prokop came back before the county’s governmental and finance committees Monday with a new proposal that appeared to be more palatable for county officials.

Recommended unanimously by members of the finance committee, the new deal would require the county to pay for 90 percent of the study — roughly $79,000 — while the city would shoulder the remaining 10 percent of the cost.

Funding for the study would come from road impact fees paid by Walmart, which is building a new store on Lady’s Island.

Lady’s Island “has become a very popular place” to live and shop, and congestion is already an issue prior to the opening of the Walmart, Keyserling said Monday.

“There is a traffic problem on Lady’s Island that needs to be addressed,” he said.

While county officials agreed with city leaders about the need for a comprehensive traffic study in the area, County Council members said the city ought to have some skin in the game.

“We have to be very careful and very frugal in how we spend our funds,” Councilman Jerry Stewart said Monday.

He said he thinks that “it is important that the city does contribute” to the cost of the study.

County Councilman Steve Fobes said he remains “a little conflicted about the dollar amounts” spent by the county compared to the city, but he isn’t “going to quibble ... whatever the split is” at this point in the process.

Despite the recommendation by the county’s finance committee, the full council must approve funding deal with the city.

If the deal were to fall through, the city would be on the hook for the full cost of the study, Prokop said Monday.

“We’re committed. We signed a contract” with engineering firm Ward Edwards to perform the study, he said.

“We will have to cut other things out of our budget” if the county declines to fund the vast majority of the study, he said.

While there are still lingering differences in opinion on who should pay for what, everyone involved seems to agree that traffic in the area is a problem.

A comprehensive study would be the first step toward finding solutions, officials from both the city and county say.

Concerns were brought late last year from local residents who said entering and leaving the area around Lost Island Road would become more dangerous when the new Walmart, along with several other proposed developments, open.

The residents asked state Erickson to bring the S.C. Department of Transportation into the discussion. The agency joined a group including the city and county to form a plan in recent months.

The funding split proposed by city leaders Monday will likely be introduced to the full County Council for consideration next month.

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