Hilton Head’s population is booming. More people means more cars on the road.
Widening Highway 278 has been talked about for a decade, but the first step to doing something may only be months away.
The Windmill Harbor Development.
Anyone who lives here knows that coming home is easy, but leaving could take a long time and be dangerous.
But Beaufort County could soon change that, and begin easing the traffic flow getting on and off the island.
“It is a critical chokepoint getting on and off the island,” explains Colin Kinton, Beaufort County Traffic Engineer.
Jenkins Island, just past or before the bridges to Bluffton. A 1 and a half mile strecth criticial for drivers and for traffic enginners trying to find everyone a safer way home.
“(We want to ) Limit those accesses to right in right out only, and then have that traffic make protected u-turns,” says Kinton.
Thats the proposal for the areas around Windmill Harbor and the Hilton Head RV park. It would end the left turns out which can leave drivers waiting.. and waiting.. and waiting.. and worried when they finally do cross.
“When you have a car that is trying to make a left hand turn either into or out of, you result in a significant amount of conflict points and potential crashes and anytime you have a constrained facility like we do on 278, when you have a minor crash thats going to clog up traffic,” says Kinton.
The plan is simple, end the dangerous left turns from those two spots and expand the road to three lanes in each direction to ease the traffic. Then create a specialized u-turn lane for cars, buses and rv’s.
“If you are coming out of Windmill Harbor and want to get to the mainland, rather than turn left you will turn right, go about a half mile, make a signalized u turn, and then go back to the mainland.”
It’s a plan talked about for a decade, but with traffic increasing 2-3% last year alone, 3 lanes is one good sign for all drivers now and in the future.
“We also dont want to hinder trafic getting on and off the island, and allow for the widening that is to come in years ahead,” says Kinton.
The Beaufort County Council has voted to pay the $6-6.5 million for the widening.
As for the bridges, thats up to SC Department of Transportation They are in charge of the bridges and are studying the environmental impact for expansion.
So while this stretch could be done as soon as fall 2019.. the traffic will continue to mount in other spots on and off the island.. for a few years longer.