Traffic

Changes coming at US 278 intersections in Bluffton. Here’s what that means for drivers

Here’s how US 278 traffic signals may change your commute during rush hour

Beaufort County Traffic Division will begin using a lagging left turn sequence during rush hour traffic in hopes of keeping traffic moving along the Bluffton corridor on US 278 from SC 170 to the bridges of Hilton Head Island.
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Beaufort County Traffic Division will begin using a lagging left turn sequence during rush hour traffic in hopes of keeping traffic moving along the Bluffton corridor on US 278 from SC 170 to the bridges of Hilton Head Island.

Changes proposed at four busy intersections along U.S. 278 in Bluffton could affect the way drivers get onto the highway, but South Carolina transportation officials say, ultimately, that’s what’s needed to make the route safer.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation has a community meeting planned in early April where the changes will be formally revealed and the public can comment. Signs went up last week advertising the meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. April 4 in the Bluffton Middle School cafeteria.

U.S. 278 intersections with Buck Island Road, Bluffton Road, Hilton Head National Drive and Salt Marsh Drive are included in the proposal.

Brett McCutchan, SCDOT project manager, said the proposed changes are the result of a safety audit that took into consideration the crashes that have occurred at the intersections.

He said the work is separate from another U.S. 278 corridor project in which SCDOT is proposing to replace one of the Hilton Head Island bridges. That project focuses on the area from around Moss Creek on the Bluffton side of the bridges to the Squire Pope Road area on the island.

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Signs, like this one on Buck Island Road, are posted in Bluffton to announce a community meeting on upcoming U.S. 278 changes. Doug Wilson Submitted

Here’s what the SCDOT website says is being proposed for U.S. 278 in Bluffton:

  • At Buck Island Road: The right-turn lane that routes traffic onto U.S. 278 would be relocated and controlled by a traffic signal.
  • At Bluffton Road: The right-turn lane that routes traffic onto U.S. 278 and the short acceleration lane would be changed to a turning lane controlled by a traffic signal.
  • At Hilton Head National Drive: The ability to make a left turn onto U.S. 278 would be removed.
  • At Salt Marsh Drive: The intersection would be simplified for those turning from U.S. 278 into Moss Creek Village.

McCutchan said the project also would include new pavement markings and changes to traffic signals protecting left turns from U.S. 278.

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SCDOT

Concept designs will be on display at the community meeting, and the public will be given at least two weeks to offer comments, he said.

Construction would likely not begin until the later part of 2020 and into 2021, according to McCutchan.

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SCDOT

Establishing rights of way is a lengthy process, he explained.

The U.S. 278 intersection with Buck Island Road has a reputation as dangerous among local residents.

After a 2017 accident in which a pregnant teacher was killed in a collision at the intersection, a Bluffton police spokesperson suggested people avoid making a left turn there without a protected green arrow. Transportation officials later altered the flashing yellow turn signal during certain hours.

Traffic near the U.S. 278 and Bluffton Road intersection has changed with the development of Walmart, Sam’s Club and several new restaurants in recent years.

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