Traffic

Hilton Head’s Pope Avenue was repaved in June. Now, town says it needs a $50K redo

Mini speed bumps.

A washboard.

“Like driving over rolly-pollies.”

Drivers say a trip down Hilton Head Island’s Pope Avenue — one of the busiest 1.5-mile stretches on the island — feels more like pebbles than pavement.

Pope Avenue, Hilton Head’s “boulevard to the beach,” should be quite smooth because it was just re-paved. The $1.1 million project finished in June and was funded by the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Town of Hilton Head Island.

But drivers are complaining. “I actually think its worse now than it was before,” North Forest Beach resident Bill Head said. “It’s just rougher. It’s much rougher than it used to be.”

Town officials agree.

“We share those concerns,” Town Manager Steve Riley said Wednesday. “We agree that it’s not well done.”

Riley said the contractor will be required to repave the road at its expense. The contractor, Quality Enterprises, said it’s not to blame. While Hilton Head and the company figure out who’s responsible, islanders once again will have to endure road construction — and maybe the cost of the redo.

Pope Avenue became a headache for drivers in the past year when alternating lanes were closed for paving work, causing congestion. Nearby businesses worried about the “scary” construction timeline, which limited access to retail, restaurants and bars during the spring season.

By next summer, the road will lead to a 9-acre park behind the Coligny beach parking lot. The $20 million project will include a football field-sized green space, museum, playground and lagoon. Visitors will access the Lowcountry Celebration Park using a traffic signal at Lagoon Road and Pope Avenue.

In the meantime, everyone’s in for a bumpy ride.

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The surface of Pope Avenue before and after paving shows the pavement deficiencies that transferred to the new surface. Howard Murrell, President of Quality Enterprises

Who will pay to pave Pope Avenue... again?

Hilton Head taxpayers financed $250,000 of the original paving project through property tax allocations in the Coligny area. Riley said they should not have to pay again when the area is repaved in fall.

“Our position is that it was done unacceptably, and it will need to be done at the (contractor’s) cost,” Riley said. “It’s not something we’re willing to tear up in the middle of summer.”

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Howard Murrell, President of Quality Enterprises

Howard Murrell, the president of Quality Enterprises, said his firm shouldn’t be on the hook for repaving a section of Pope Avenue because the contractor warned the town the project was going to fail.

“Now that they’re not happy, they’re trying to come back and say it’s our fault,” he said.

Murrell told The Island Packet Wednesday there’s no way his company will pay, because his firm emailed the town on April 29 that the foundation for the road was uneven and must be corrected before paving.

“The road was too bad to just install asphalt. It was too uneven. It was too broken up,” Murrell said. “I told them they weren’t going to be happy with the final work without doing those corrections first.”

Riley, who oversees all town staff, said he was completely unaware of the warning that the road was uneven.

“I’ve never heard anything like that,” he said Wednesday. He added that project communication typically goes through the engineering department.

Scott Liggett, the director of public projects for the town, said he and SCDOT are “confident in the design put forth” for Pope Avenue and that the poor quality paving was a result of poor work done on a specific day by Quality Enterprises.

“The defects that you see out there are confined to a single night’s efforts,” Liggett said. “The day after the bad work happened, they notified us in the morning.”

He said he estimates fixing the road will cost $50,000.

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Howard Murrell, President of Quality Enterprises

Asked why Quality Enterprises would perform a job it knew wouldn’t solve the problem, Murrell said, “we do not engineer the jobs; we just do the construction work. Unfortunately the customer didn’t take our suggestion, and we have to do what they tell us to do.”

While it’s unclear who will pay for the work, drivers appear to be united in wanting it fixed — even if that means more construction cones.

“Why would we let the contractor leave the area?” Realtor Robert Rini said. “If you have to block the road off again and fix it, fix it.”

The most noticeably bumpy section of the road is the eastbound right lane heading toward Coligny Circle.

Head, the North Forest Beach resident, said he tries to stay in the left lane on Pope Avenue, especially after construction debris on the road punctured two tires on his son’s car in March.

He just received a $417 check from Quality Enterprises for that incident.

Liggett said he hopes the parties can resolve the issue before it ends up in court.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

How did we do this story? And what are Rolly Pollies?

Reporters from The Island Packet noticed bumps in the road on Pope Avenue this summer, although the area had just been re-paved. We spoke to business owners, town officials and neighbors to gauge whether they were happy with the project. When the president of Quality Enterprises told a reporter his firm emailed the town about potential deficiencies before paving, The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette obtained a copy of that email and gave the recipient at the town four opportunities to comment on it.

Another note: A rolly pollie — or how Bill Head described the texture of Pope Avenue — is also called a “pill bug.” It could also be spelled “rolly polly,” “rollie pollie,” and “roly poly.”

Related stories from Hilton Head Island Packet

Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.
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