Downtown streetlight upgrades slowed

As of March 14, the removal of old streetlights in downtown Beaufort has been slowed by recent rains and unmarked underground utilities, including high voltage lines and undocumented stormwater drains.

Some parking spaces on the river side of Bay Street will be closed during construction, but others will remain available.

“It’s one of those cases of ‘pardon our progress,’ and we want our downtown merchants and visitors to know that we are working hard to move this project forward,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said. “The end result will be a much prettier downtown with better lighting.”

Work started earlier last week along the south side (river side) of Bay Street from Carteret to Scott streets. The contractor, JoCo Construction, has bored under Scott Street and an additional driveway access as part of the project.

By later this month, the entire southern side of Bay Street will have the old streetlights removed and work is scheduled to have started with pouring foundations to install the newer, brighter light fixtures and poles.

Five of the existing gooseneck lights and their foundations already have been shut down, removed and placed into storage. Conduit, irrigation and a rock foundation have been put in the trench where the 16-inch brick band will improve the look of the sidewalk.

Last Friday, work crews began removing debris from some parking spots so that they would be usable, though motorists were advised to use caution in those areas.

“This isn’t as simple as unscrewing a light pole and bolting down the new one,” said Isiah Smalls, director of public works and facilities management for Beaufort. “The streetlights are connected in sections like Christmas tree lights, so we have to disconnect one section, remove the old poles and dig up the electrical connections.

“That’s where the contractor has run into problems. They’ve found lines for phones, electricity, stormwater, sewer and even a natural gas line. When it comes to Bay Street and other parts of downtown, there’s no document that shows what all is underground — and that makes it slow-going when we do projects like this streetlight upgrade.”

Sidewalks along the river side of Bay Street remain open for pedestrians. Motorists are asked to use caution if parking near construction areas and to be aware of the orange fencing.

Once Bay Street’s lamps are installed, work will continue across downtown, including Carteret, Charles, Scott, West and Port Republic streets.

Main Street Beaufort USA is working with city leaders to keep downtown businesses and visitors informed.

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