Sea Island Parkway traffic study is on hold

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By Kat Walsh

A study of increased traffic on the Sea Island Parkway has been put on hold until officials can agree on a way to fund it.

At its Aug. 8 meeting, the Beaufort County Finance Committee tabled the city of Beaufort’s request to fund an $89,000 traffic study of the Sea Island Parkway east of Beaufort.

The study would look at the combined impact of the new Walmart, Harris Teeter and the proposed fast food restaurant on Sea Island Parkway. Seeing the big picture would allow planners to look at total numbers and traffic patterns and seek solutions.

The debate is not over whether such a study is needed – it’s already been recommended by a county, city and state study committee – but how it would be paid for.

Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop proposed that some of the money the county received from Walmart’s impact fees be used to pay for the study. The retail giant paid a total of $280,000 in traffic impact fees; $2,800 of that went to the city of Beaufort; the remaining $277,200 went to the county for road maintenance.

The county’s complaints – that this is the city’s problem, that the city is annexing everything and that the county is losing tax dollars ¬– is baseless, said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling.

“The reason for (tabling the request for funding the study) is that many on the committee didn’t understand what is in the city and what is in the county, the tax implications or the fact that the zoning that is in place today is the zoning they approved years ago,” he said.

Keyserling said that the city will assume some  responsibility, but it’s not entirely a city problem.

“While everyone is saying ‘Beaufort is causing these problems,’ it’s really a problem we all share,” he said.

“Traffic problems are a problem for the county because it is county roads that are impacted, and a problem for the state because we are talking about a state road system.”

Sea Island Coalition representatives said the group was not concerned who paid for the study, only that the study be done and done as quickly as possible.

“A traffic study is not a traffic solution,” said a spokesperson for the Sea Island Coalition.

Keyserling supports the coalition and understands that the people of Lady’s Island are very concerned about the growth and the resulting traffic in the area.

“They are victims of the past and don’t want to be further victims of property changes.”

Once a study is complete, “then we can understand the problem and look at the solution,” he said.

Top photo: Traffic has increased dramatically on the Sea Island Parkway due to growth in the area. Photo by Bob Sofaly.