Photo above: Four-year-old Ivey Patterson holds her dad Leon Patterson’s hand as she walks along a brick wall near Kmart on the north side of Boundary Street. Patterson said he walks with his daughter along the road for 30 minutes nearly every day. But there is no sidewalk or path to walk on. “I can’t wait for (the sidewalk) to be done,” he said. “I just can’t wait.” Photo by Bob Sofaly.
By Sally Mahan
The extensive construction and redevelopment along Boundary Street is slowly but surely being completed as work moves to the north side of the busy four-lane thoroughfare in Beaufort.
Construction started in early 2016 on the $32 million Boundary Street Improvement Corridor. The work includes moving overhead power and communications cables underground for safety and aesthetics, realigning the Boundary and Robert Smalls Parkway intersection and improving traffic signals, including a new signal at Carolina Cove.
In order to lay the power and communication cables underground, “duct banks” had to be dug. The majority of that utility work has been completed on the south side of Boundary, but there is still some other work yet to be done.
“The wires and poles will be coming down and we are going to demolish the old Sea Eagle Market, the old firehouse and the Huddle House, all on south side of Boundary. Then those spots will be turned into passive park space,” said Neal Pugliese, the city of Beaufort’s senior project manager on the undertaking.
A boardwalk will be constructed on the south side of Boundary, and once those buildings are down, there will be gorgeous marsh views.
“The views will be absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Then we have to do paving on the south side and construction of center median and put plant life in there. The intent is that when you come into Beaufort it will be a welcoming entranceway. We want to create an atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, work on the north side of Boundary has begun over the past few weeks.
“The work on the north side is proving much more complicated than the south side,” said Pugliese. “The south side was a complex undertaking, but it was sort of high school-level and early college-level work. The north side can be compared to graduate work.
“It’s going to be about the same amount of time, but the level of manpower and coordination is going to be more significant than the south side.”
There are a tremendous amount of communication and utility lines underneath the ground on the north side of Boundary Street, making the job of laying the overhead wires very complex.
“And, the north side is all businesses,” said Pugliese. “So when you’re constructing the duct bank you have to navigate sewer, water, gas, communications, etc. There is a whole lot that is underneath the surface, making it an incredible undertaking.
“It’s been essential for the utility companies to cooperate and coordinate and we’ve seen a level of that that is emblematic of the attitude of the Lowcountry.”
Meanwhile, businesses remain open and the city is trying to accommodate them as much as possible. They receive weekly updates on the construction and the city is working with businesses to address any access problems they may have.
“Of course it has been an interruption to businesses,” said Pugliese, “but we’re working with them and if there’s something we can do to help mitigate some of the issues we’ll get on it and try to accommodate them. The city and county are very pro-business and we want to do right by the businesses.”
Drivers are also continuing to see backups, as has been true throughout the construction. However, Pugliese said they are trying to do as much work as possible at night to reduce the traffic issues on Boundary Street.
And despite the way Boundary Street looks now, with orange barrels everywhere, everything is coming together.
“It’s very, very rare that you find something on time and on budget, especially looking at what happened with Hurricane Matthew. If it were it not for the storm we would have been ahead of schedule.”
The project is scheduled to be complete by February or March of 2018 barring any unforeseen circumstances.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be aesthetically pleasing and it will be a safer street,” said Pugliese. “There will also be smart streetlights so that traffic is better regulated.
“There will be frustrations and disruptions and we’re looking forward to getting this done, but in the long run it will be so much better for the community.”