Infrastructure and capital improvement upgrades on Hilton Head Island are always a work in progress.
Major setbacks, specifically back-to-back hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 from Matthew and Irma, derailed the timetable for planned priority projects during that time. Rain-heavy Joaquin in 2015 was not beach-friendly to the island at all.
Recovery from impassable roadways, property destruction and water damage became the top priority for two years. Infrastructure improvements were put on hold.
Not anymore. The agenda is back in full swing from the south end to the north.
But patience is required of local residents.
Coligny Area Redevelopment Initiative
If you were heading toward Coligny Beach on Pope Avenue in late February, you would have seen traffic cones, a conversion of two lanes into one, a dozen workers, road-working equipment, dust and no Pope Avenue access to free beach parking.
As work continues, some adjustments will have to be made in traffic flow, but Scott Liggett, director of public projects for the Town, doesn't expect major disruption for upcoming events.
For a number of years, the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade has been staged and started at the beach parking lot. That shouldn't change, Liggett said, for the March 17 event. "We are coordinating with the parade committee to ensure the project area is made safe and to provide a staging area for parade floats and marchers to enter directly onto Pope Avenue instead of South Forest Beach Drive," he said. "I don't expect that most parade goers will notice much of a difference compared to what has occurred in prior years."
In April, attendees of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing will not be affected, Liggett said. "My understanding is the bus pick-up and drop-off will occur at the South Forest Beach driveway and not interfere with the Pope-Lagoon work area," he said. "Thus, we will have our contractor maintain a clear delineation of the work site and public parking areas. We are in coordination with Tournament and CSA officials."
Work on the project is not expected to disrupt summer traffic. "From Memorial Day to Labor Day we expect to stand down and not be disruptive at all or to any degree," Liggett said. "We are trying to not relive what occurred to everybody last summer when we had extenuating circumstances that drove the desire to stay on the schedule and stay working. There's no reason, as I see it, to subject ourselves and the general public to big traffic disruptions this summer."
The pathways, roadway improvements (Pope, Lagoon, Nassau Street and South Forest Beach Road), intersections, a new traffic signal at Pope and Lagoon Road, paving, stormwater and utility coordination work should all be completed before the tourist season begins, he said.
A separate, stand-alone contract will kickstart the 15-month construction projection this spring of a public park on a 15-acre parcel of town land from the beach parking lot to Circle Center on Pope Avenue.
Lowcountry Celebration Park will feature a performance pavilion and gathering lawn, a children's museum, a large playground, a lagoon, walking trails and boardwalks, and overflow beach parking.
Summer 2020 is the expected completion date for the park.
Total cost of the Coligny redevelopment is about $20 million, paid for by the town's tax increment financing.
Cordillo Tennis Courts: Liggett said he expects the removal and replacement of the dilapidated courts to receive soon the town council's blessing to authorize the go-ahead on the $300,000 project. Repair of the courts should be completed by mid-summer. Next up is awarding a contract for a small building, sitework and parking improvements.
Shelter Cove intersections: The design, development and permitting has been completed for a series of six intersection improvements, Liggett said. The prework has cost $125,000, and additional funding in the millions of dollars for the 1-mile construction up U.S. 278 to the sheriff's office will be sitting on the town council's desk for approval when the new fiscal year budget is discussed in July.
Liggett said crosswalk and lighting improvements at the Yacht Cove intersection, where a young island girl was tragically struck and killed last year, is close to getting a permit from the state Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains U.S. 278.
The signage and pavement marking will cost about $20,000, and the lighting about $30,000, he said. Liggett is hopeful that the Yacht Cove upgrade will serve as a model for other crosswalk makeovers.
"We're hoping to improve on island walkway and lighting for 11 crosswalks for crosswalk safety enhancement," said Liggett, a 29-year town staffer.
North end sewer expansion: This difficult 5-year improvement plan is well underway, shared in part by the Town and the Hilton Head Public Service District, which administers the contract and acquires easement permission from the homeowners to install sewer mains on their property. The Town then acquires the transfer of land from the homeowners to the Town, which then owns that portion of land for the road right of way.
The 500 or so homeowners with septic tanks in their yard must pay a fee for the sewer hookup. A few hundred have done so already.
"Overall, I think things are going well," Liggett said. "Does it look like we've had three successive years with declared disasters? I think we have recovered from those.... I think the town is well funded from a variety of funding sources to allow us to pursue these projects."
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.