Hilton Head’s Shelter Cove corridor has been the site of nearly 100 collisions since 2015, according to data from the Town of Hilton Head Island’s traffic engineer, Darrin Shoemaker.
On Tuesday, Shoemaker and a consultant hired by the town presented a list of improvements to the Shelter Cove corridor that aim to stop the collisions — they said construction will start in late 2019.
“This project study area has been of interest since 2015 due to growing development in the corridor, increased congestion, and a desire to improve safety,” town engineer Jeff Buckalew told The Island Packet.
Graham Malone of HDR Engineering of the Carolinas found the six intersections that make up the corridor are stacked with things that threaten safety: unsignalized crosswalks, acceleration lanes that are far too short, misaligned through lanes and a mixing of traffic from Palmetto Dunes and the Shelter Cove Towne Centre.
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The corridor runs from the intersection of Queens Folly Road and King Neptune Way with U.S. 278 near Palmetto Dunes northward to the intersection of Shelter Cove Lane and U.S. 278 near the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Shoemaker said the Shelter Cove revitalization project has “changed traffic patterns and demands for the area,” and the alternatives aim to make the corridor safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists that frequent the new shopping center.
Buckalew said the project will cost upwards of $1.25 million throughout the consulting, design and construction process, which he said the town hopes to complete by summer 2020.
The money for Shelter Cove corridor improvements will come from the 2020 Capital Improvement Plan fund, a part of the town’s budget specifically set aside for major projects such as road development, pathway additions and beach maintenance.
Shelter Cove Towne Centre intersection
The plan to improve the Shelter Cove entrance near Hickory Tavern and Kroger includes revamping the turning lanes and stopping traffic in both directions with a traffic signal.
The shopping center intersection has been the site of two fatalities since 2014, The Island Packet previously reported.
Deweese Weaver, 78, was struck and killed by a motorist as she was walking her bike across the street on Feb. 16, 2017. Jerome Stewart, 43, died after he lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree on March 15, 2014.
Malone’s alternative, which has been endorsed by town staff, includes:
- Adding double-left turn lanes for cars leaving Shelter Cove Towne Centre near Hickory Tavern.
- Stopping northbound traffic on U.S. 278 at a traffic signal to allow left turners from shopping center to turn onto the highway.
- Deleting acceleration lane, which Shoemaker called “too short” for existing traffic to speed up to match drivers on U.S. 278.
- Adding signalized pedestrian crosswalk to get people from town pathway on northbound U.S. 278 to Shelter Cove entrance.
The alternative comes with a down side — widening the side roads and U.S. 278 may affect the tree canopy that is a major characteristic of Shelter Cove, Shoemaker said. He said the plan, if approved, will minimize damage to the tree canopy wherever possible.
Palmetto Dunes entrance
Malone identified the entrance to Palmetto Dunes from U.S. 278 as another intersection that needs an overhaul. The intersection between Queens Folly Road, King Neptune Way and U.S. 278 is on the south end of the Shelter Cove corridor.
The plan for this intersection includes:
- Adding two left turn lanes leaving Palmetto Dunes and two left turn lanes leaving the Shelter Cove marina.
- Adding left turn arrow signals so drivers turning onto U.S. 278 do not have to yield to oncoming traffic.
- Realigning turns from Palmetto Dunes so they match up with through lanes from King Neptune Way.
Andrew Schumacher, the chief operating officer of Palmetto Dunes, told the consultant team that the gated community “would support left turn signals” that give left turners the right of way.
However, he said the community would “not necessarily support” widening the road leaving Palmetto Dunes to include two left turn lanes.
The lane expansion would cut into the landscaped median that features the Palmetto Dunes sign.
New Pathway near Shelter Cove
Shoemaker also discussed a separate project that will change the look of Shelter Cove. The town will add a new pathway from Hickory Tavern up to the Sheriff’s Office on the southbound side of U.S. 278.
He said that segment of the Shelter Cove area is the only part of the corridor that is missing a multi-use pathway.
That pathway project is scheduled to begin in January 2019.
New traffic signal at Sheriff’s Office
Malone also suggests adding a traffic signal at the entrance to the Sheriff’s Office from U.S. 278 to allow turning cars to use official turn lanes.
The plan would delete the acceleration lane on U.S. 278 that forces drivers leaving the Sheriff’s Office to speed up to match traffic on the highway.
The improvements also include widening Shelter Cove Lane in front of the Sheriff’s Office to add a right turn lane.
Tuesday was the first public hearing for the alternatives, and Shoemaker said the town is taking written comments on the plans.
The plans for the intersections will go to the planning commission in January. After the planning commission hears the plans, Shelter Cove improvements will be incorporated into the town’s capital improvement project plan.