Traffic on the Ballot

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Penny sales tax would fund Lady’s Island Corridor improvements

Beaufort County voters will have a chance Nov. 6 to have their say in whether to approve a one-cent transportation sales tax that would provide up to $120 million to address traffic congestion and safety issues surrounding roads and bridges, as well as sidewalks and multi-use pathways throughout the county.

Tricia Fidrych makes her point during the listening session Tuesday night at Technical College of the Lowcountry. Fidrych is challenging incumbent Joseph Dunkle for Beaufort County School Board.

Local Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot will ask voters whether they “approve a special transportation sales and use tax in the amount of one percent to be imposed in Beaufort County for no more than 4 years, or until a total of $120 million dollars in resulting revenue has been collected, whichever comes first.”

A yes vote would provide up to $30 million to make traffic improvements on Lady’s Island between the Woods Memorial Bridge and the Chowan Creek Bridge. Another $10 would go to installation and repair of sidewalks and multi-use pathways in 24 locations throughout the county to help provide safe walking routes to schools and improved access to residential communities. And $80 million would go to traffic improvements to the U.S. 278 corridor, including repairing or replacing existing spans of the bridges to Hilton Head Island and improvements between Moss Creek Drive and Squire Pope Road.

Advocates point out as much as 50 percent of the revenue produced by the tax would come from purchases by tourists and commuters from outside Beaufort County, easing the impact of necessary repairs on county residents. 

About two dozen people attended a joint listening session hosted by Beaufort County Council District 4 representative Alice Howard and Beaufort County Board of Education member Joseph Dunkle on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Robert McFee, Beaufort County Director of Construction, Engineering and Facilities, discussed the proposed One-Cent Transportation Referendum projects and gave a detailed report on the need for raising $120 million and where in Beaufort County it’s needed the most.

Some of the roads earmarked for repair in Northern Beaufort County are highlighted on this graphic.

Another informational meeting regarding the referendum is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Lady’s Island Middle School cafeteria. 

More information is also available online at sayyestothepenny.com, a website created by a group of concerned citizens known as the Citizens for Better Roads and Bridges. The group was created to “advocate for solutions to the problem of Beaufort County’s deteriorating roads and bridges” and hopes to educate voters on the upcoming referendum. 

GET THE FACTS ON SALES AND USE TAX

Beaufort County is hosting a Public Informational Meeting about the upcoming 1-cent sales tax which will be on the November ballot. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Lady’s Island Middle School cafeteria. For Northern Beaufort County, this ties into the Lady’s Island Plan 2018, along with some sidewalk/multi-use path improvements around the northern portion of the county.

8 Questions for Lady’s Island:

1. What traffic problems is Lady’s Island experiencing? 

Lady’s Island is one of the fastest growing areas in Beaufort County. The Island’s residential population has grown by nearly 2.5 percent annually since the year 2000, with noticeable impacts on community character, environmental protection – and traffic and traffic congestion.

2. What does this mean for the future of Lady’s Island? 

The population of Lady’s Island is about 13,500 today, about the size of the City of Beaufort. But there are potentially nearly nine thousand new residences that could be built on the island under current regulations.

3. How bad is traffic? 

Traffic counts collected in 2016 show US 21 Business Sea Island Parkway has reached daily traffic volumes of 21,660 vehicles per day (vpd), while US 21 Lady’s Island Drive has reached 26,000 vpd. Without some action, the main intersection on Lady’s Island – the Sea Island Parkway at Sams Point Road – will likely reach capacity by 2020.

4. It’s an island: What can be done about the traffic without building more roads? 

There has never been a basic plan for Lady’s Island. As a result, things have developed piecemeal. There are some smaller corrective measures that can be taken, and a couple of more major projects that significantly extend road capacity. One thing most do not wish to do is build major new roadways that will help attract new development on the island.

5. What kinds of “solutions” are we talking about? 

Greater street connectivity is central to a solution, and re-location of some traffic signals has the potential to get traffic moving. Re-organization of merge lanes on the Sea Island Parkway near Walmart, and a new right-turn only lane at the “Publix intersection” will bring significant improvement.

6. How soon will work begin to solve these problems? 

It all depends on funding. The overall plan is separated into nine distinct projects. These projects will be combined as funding permits. Otherwise, they will be prioritized based on availability, impacts of one project to another, and perceived needs. Beaufort County is recommending funding come from a four-year, one-cent increase in the sales tax. If voters approve this in November, some projects could be underway in 2019.

7. What are these nine projects, and what are the specific costs? 

Total costs are estimated to be about $30 million. Here is a list of the nine projects and the estimated cost:

  • SC 802 Sam’s Point Road Right Turn Lane – $761,000
  • Hazel Farm Road and Gay Drive – $2,984,000
  • New Lady’s Island Middle School Access – $1,483,000
  • Sunset Boulevard and Miller Drive West – $4,842,000
  • Beaufort High School Access Realignment – $1,792,000
  • US 21 Business, US 21, and SC 802 Mainline Improvements – $10,776,000
  • Meadowbrook Drive Extension – $777,000
  • Mayfair Court Extension – $450,000
  • US 21 Airport Area and Frontage Road – $4,980,000

8. What happens if the referendum does not pass in November?

Failure of the referendum means these projects can only then be undertaken individually, and then only over a longer period of time. Given existing traffic pressures, the traffic situation on Lady’s Island will then likely get a lot worse before it gets better. One objective is to prevent traffic congestion on the island from growing to crisis proportions, which we do by acting now.

Photo at top: Robert McFee, Beaufort County Director of Construction, Engineering and Facilities, discusses the upcoming Beaufort County referendum for the proposed one-cent sales tax to help fund various road improvements during a listening session for concerned citizens Tuesday night at Technical College of the Lowcountry. The referendum will be on the ballot this November. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

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