A first look at the Lady’s Island traffic study

in Voices by

By Paul Butare, Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association

In July 2016, the city of Beaufort, in conjunction with Beaufort County, commissioned Ward Edwards Engineering to evaluate the short, intermediate and long-term traffic needs for Lady’s Island. 

Stantec was subcontracted to perform the actual study. 

As a basis for the study, traffic counts were taken during a summer weekend and during a weekday when school was in session. The study covered from Woods Bridge to Chowan Creek on Sea Island Parkway, and Rue De Bois on Lady’s Island Drive to Miller Road on Sams Point Road. 

They included projected traffic from all approved and anticipated developments in the area on Lady’s Island and added a small amount of background growth over a 20-year period. 

The results are probably not surprising to many of us: Traffic is up and increasing noticeably. 

With count data from SCDOT, supplemental counts and extensive study of existing and potential roads, the study predicts that with no action taken, traffic increases over the next 10-25 years will produce unacceptable levels of congestion and gridlock. 

Several key “hot spots” were specifically reviewed to include the new Walmart, Lost Island and Little Creek intersections, Sams Point Road and Sea Island Parkway intersection, Sunset Boulevard, Lady’s Island Middle school and Beaufort High School exits onto Sea Island Parkway.

Recently the consultants who conducted the study presented their findings to the community and solicited comments. Following are some of the suggestions made to reduce the negative impact of the projected increases in traffic.

• Airport Circle/Lost Island Drive: Reconfigure Lost Island Drive and Little Creek Road by building a connector/frontage road from Little Creek Road to the new traffic signal at Airport Circle (Walmart). 

Traffic exiting the proposed Taco Bell, Little Creek and Lost Island would be allowed a right turn only. 

Incoming traffic, and traffic which needs to take a left to go toward Beaufort, would be routed to this proposed new access road, running parallel to Sea Island Parkway, up to the new traffic signal at the Walmart and Airport Circle.

In addition, Sea Island Parkway widening would be extended beyond the Airport Circle traffic signal to reduce vehicle queues at the intersection. The land needed to accomplish this is privately owned.

• Cougar Drive (Lady’s Island Middle School): At certain times during the day, the traffic in and out of Cougar Drive can be difficult and potentially dangerous. 

To improve the Lady’s Island Middle School exit from Cougar Drive onto Sea Island Parkway, a road-alignment of Cougar Drive is being considered, leading to a new traffic signal which would be added at the intersection of Gay Drive and Sea Island Parkway as part of a connector road from Lady’s Island Drive. The land needed for an access road is privately owned.

• Intersection of Sams Point Road and Sea Island Parkway: This intersection is already considered “failing” by industry standards and will become worse during peak hours when the new Walmart is opened. 

The new developments on Sams Point Road, such as Oyster Bluff, as well as the new Harris Teeter will make the intersection even more difficult. 

Though not part of this study, it has been reported that Harris Teeter will fund an additional right turn lane from Sea Island Parkway on to Sams Point Road.

Some of the remedies proposed to reduce traffic at this key intersection include adding a right turn lane to Sams Point Road at the Walgreen’s corner, and improving conditions on Sunset Boulevard and Miller Road to allow traffic heading towards the Woods Memorial Bridge to bypass the Sams Point Road/Sea Island Parkway Intersection. 

A traffic signal is proposed at Miller Road and Sams Point Road. Other improvements would include adding traffic calming elements such as sidewalks, trees and a small roundabout at the intersection of Miller and Sunset to help keep speeds low.

This recommendation includes moving of the traffic signal from the present high school exit to the Sunset Boulevard exit onto Sea Island Parkway and building a new connector road to allow the high school traffic to exit at the new signal location. 

• Lady’s Island Drive/Sea Island Parkway Connector Road: To reduce the amount of traffic at the intersection of Lady’s Island Drive and Sea Island Parkway, the development of a connector route from Lady’s Island Drive is proposed by routing traffic from S.C. 802, over a paved Hazel Farm road, connecting with Gay Road, and exiting to Sea Island Parkway where a traffic signal would be added at the intersection of Sea Island Parkway and Gay Road and across from the new Cougar Drive location. Traffic calming measures such as sidewalks, trees and a small roundabout at Inlet Road would also be added.

The study concludes that unless some of the proposals are undertaken, traffic congestion at peak travel times at key intersections will reach a point where delays and travel times from the outer parts of Sea Island Parkway, Lady’s Island Drive and the further Sea Islands of Distant, Lost Island, St. Helena, Dataw, Harbor, Hunting and Fripp to Beaufort and beyond could become unreasonable. 

None of these proposals are quick fixes and the state, county and city do not have funds presently dedicated to making any of them a reality. However, it is an important start to plan for our future, based upon the quantitative data that this study provides.  

We will keep you posted as we receive additional information.