HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina transportation officials promise to listen to concerns from Hilton Head Island about repairs and upgrades to U.S. 278 even though almost all of the project is outside town limits.
The Department of Transportation earlier this month first offered state law for an answer about the role Hilton Head Island would have on the project, which says municipalities only get a say about roads inside their city limits, The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported.
That caused an outcry since the $290 million project is just outside Hilton Head Island town limits and the highway is the gateway to the island from Interstate 95.
State Sen. Tom Davis said he knows the law, but politics needs to play a role too and transportation officials can't ignore months of public comments from island residents and work by town employees.
“Let me be clear: the SCDOT will not shove bridge plans down the throats of the people of Hilton Head Island,” the Republican from Beaufort wrote in a statement, adding "Local voices must be and will be the ones given the most consideration and deference — not those in Columbia.”
“While we responded to yesterday’s media inquiries with a statutorily correct response,” DOT Secretary Christy Hall wrote a statement, “it did not properly convey our commitment to ensuring robust engagement and meaningful collaboration with the local governments on this very important project. Of course, the Town has a seat at the table with regards to the design of the project.”
“It is imperative that we all work together to design and build this project the right way, with reasonable accommodations made pending funding availability through our local government partners,” Hall wrote.
The improvements on U.S. 278 involve untangled several intersections where traffic bogs down and rebuilding or replacing three bridges. There will be bike lanes where cyclists and pedestrians can share the highway.
Hilton Head Island's biggest issues with the state plan are building two separate bridges in either directions, while the state wants one bridge with the same amount of lanes in each direction. The town said the two bridges could have wider bike and pedestrian lanes.
The town also wants to keep two left turns at two intersections that the state wants to eliminate.