By Mayor Billy Keyserling
Over the past several weeks, there has been a loud rumble about suggestions that Beaufort City Council will reduce the number of lanes on Boundary Street and along Ribaut Road.
One of the missions of planners, working in concert with local government and our citizens, is to study our community and to generate ideas for discussion about future ways for making a great community even better. Once their proposals are on the table and undergo scrutiny from the Beaufort Port Royal Metro Planning Commission, The Redevelopment Commission, The City Council and the residents, some of the ideas stick while others are discarded or postponed until a later date.
That being said, one must remember that because most vertical improvements will be driven by private investment and not public dollars, a plan is basically a framework for the future with the idea of the public and private sectors partnering to create improvements, most of which must be driven by private dollars.
During the past four years, after many group meetings and discussions, one of the community’s principal concern has been to enhance and in some cases restore our city’s “sense of place” that has been challenged by what is now antiquated planning from the 1970’s.
When it comes to the City Council’s plans to reduce the number of lanes in the Boundary Redevelopment District, the short answer is that the City Council has not decided to remove lanes. With regards to Ribuat Road, the city is exploring ways to best move traffic, pedestrians and cyclist throughout our community.
The Boundary Street Redevelopment District
Created through an extensive public process by the city around 2006 and funded from the penny sales tax, which the citizens supported in a voter referendum, and from federal grants, the Boundary Street Redevelopment District has been engineered and approved and is nearing construction. It is not a new idea just coming to the table though I fear some believe this is the case.
While some of the lanes on Boundary will be narrowed, and some islands will be installed, the number of lanes will not be decreased at any point along the approximately 1 mile stretch between the intersection of Ribaut Road and Boundary and a new intersection where there will be a safer T-shaped intersection at S.C. 170 and Boundary Street.
The second part is a parallel road and connecting network of smaller roads to enhance traffic circulation through this narrow area.
Furthermore, while we initially have funding for three blocks, which includes a portion of the parallel road to the north, this will provide interconnectivity and lessen the load on U.S. 21 by providing internal circulation to current and new development on the north side of Boundary.
While planners and residents have long suggested changes to Ribaut Road, the city has not yet approved any changes with the exception of the intersection of Allison and Ribaut roads where we are working with Beaufort Memorial Hospital to make the road safer for pedestrians and more attractive.
If you take the time to study Ribaut Road, you will note that it serves different purposes at different points between Boundary Street and Mossy Oaks Road where it goes into the Town of Port Royal. It may be that some yet-to-be-conceived lane changes may be worthy of consideration — with the caveat that it does not lose capacity or in any way create more safety hazards.
Based on what is currently on the table, I think it is fair to say that Ribaut Road will most likely remain four lanes, though some lanes may be narrowed to allow for green space, wider sidewalks and to slow traffic to speeds that are safer for automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians and families who live on Ribaut Road, which is historically a residential street.
Residents, along with staff, planners, the SCDOT and others are still looking at Ribaut Road and any further discussion about this will be open to public with plenty of time for discussion as Ribaut Road is included in what is referred to as Sectors 2 and 3 in the Civic Master Plan, which has not yet been fully vetted by the council, The Redevelopment Commission or the Beaufort Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission. Stay tuned and continue to share your thoughts.
Over the next couple of years, you are likely to hear a lot of “ideas” tossed around for consideration by the City Council, our Redevelopment Commission and our citizens. Before you jump to conclusions, I would invite you to (a) participate in some of the public meetings where you can hear what we are talking about and weigh in with your thoughts and/or (b) check out what we are doing on the city’s website and/or (c) call or write to me or my colleagues on City Council.
We do the best we can to be an open book, but we are actively taking on more and more improvement projects, so please stay tuned so that you do not miss hearing new ideas and weighing in.