$50K redo of Pope Ave. paving on Hilton Head starts today. Who’s paying for it?

Pope Avenue, Hilton Head Island’s “boulevard to the beach,” has been called a “washboard to the beach” for the past five months following a faulty pavement job that left parts of the 1.5-mile stretch feeling more like endless mini speed bumps.

This week, that will change.

Re-paving began Wednesday on the road, which should remediate the bumps and inconsistencies in the pavement.

Town Manager Steve Riley called the existing pavement “deficient,” and engineering staff estimates the cost of fixing the road to be around $50,000.

This road is rocky in other ways, too.

The town and the contractor blame each other for the deficient pavement, the town arguing that it’s shoddy work by the contractor Quality Enterprises (QE), while the company says it warned the town before paving that the road was uneven and should be leveled before paving.

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.

Site layout rendering for the Coligny redevelopment project. Pope Avenue is to the right. Existing Coligny Beach parking and South Forest Beach Drive are to the south. Wood Partners Inc.

The first attempt to pave the road by Quality Enterprises wrapped up in June and cost the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Town of Hilton Head Island $1.1 million in total, according to previous reporting by The Island Packet.

But one stretch of the road wasn’t up to par.

Re-paving runs through Nov. 14 to fix an eastbound section between Cordillo Parkway and Coligny Circle and a westbound section near Cordillo Parkway.

Lane closures are expected overnight for the entire 10-day construction period, and daytime closures may be necessary too, the release said.

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 for it?

From the beginning, Riley, the town manager, said the bill for fixing the road belonged to Quality Enterprises.

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

Town engineer Scott Liggett is holding that line.

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

“The town is willing to pay the contractor once for doing the job correctly,” he said Wednesday. “We don’t expect to have to pay for their correction.”

But Howard Murrell, the firm’s president, said in August that his project managers warned the town the project was going to fail.

He said Quality Enterprises 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 never received that message.

Two attempts to reach Murrell Wednesday were unsuccessful.

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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.