Other Views

A case in favor of the Beaufort County transportation sales tax: Now is the time to act

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Many of us moved here to enjoy the quality of life that the Lowcountry provides.

My wife and I came to the area 18 years ago and currently live in Sun City. Our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors have enjoyed going to the beaches on Hilton Head Island and taking advantage of all that the island offers.

Ever since we moved here, we have felt and still do feel that Beaufort County and the voters must keep up with the times and provide the necessary infrastructure to serve both residents and visitors.

Over our time in the Lowcountry, the county has taken many steps to make our roads more accessible and safer for all who travel them.

U.S. 278 was extended from S.C. 170 to Interstate 95. The next step was to widen S.C. 170 to two lanes each way from U.S. 278 to Beaufort. Since then, S.C. 170 has been expanded to four lanes all the way to the S.C. 46 circle.

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We have also seen the construction of the Bluffton Parkway to alleviate traffic on U.S. 278 and the expansion of U.S. 278 from four to six lanes from S.C. 170 to Moss Creek.

Now is the time, and very probably long past the time, to complete the work that has already been done on the U.S. 278 corridor and fix the stretch of U.S. 278 from Moss Creek to Squire Pope Road.

What is the best way to fix this last section of the U.S. 278 corridor?

The state has begun to study that question using a federally-mandated process that takes into consideration environmental, technical and social issues. The study will take place over the next two years, during which time we all will have the opportunity to give ideas and input to the planning group.

The first public hearing was in September. It was well attended and important issues – such as the concerns of native islanders and marshland preservation – were raised.

At the next scheduled public hearing, we will be able to weigh in on a set of alternatives and the analysis behind each one. The fact that the planning process encourages our input is a strong positive for me.

I was not here in 1998 when a similar referendum was on the ballot, but I remember very well the 1 percent transportation referendum on the 2006 ballot. The collection of the sales tax ended at the specific time stated in the referendum and the proceeds could only be used for the purposes stated in the referendum.

This is also the case with this new referendum.

I recall that a strong majority passed the referendum.

Additionally, tourists and commuters paid about half of the collected sales tax – just as they will with this referendum.

No one else will do the work for us. We must provide local funds to qualify for state and federal funding. I feel that this referendum provides funds as fairly as it can be done.

We may not have another opportunity to vote for a referendum until 2022. By then, the congestion and safety issues will be worse and the cost of the project will be substantially higher.

Please join me in voting “yes” for Local Question #1 to approve a 1 percent sales tax on Nov. 6.

Joe Fragale of Sun City Hilton Head is a member of Citizens for Better Roads and Bridges.