New and Improved

There’s so much to discover and enjoy on Hilton Head Island that even year-round residents often feel like full-time tourists! Beginning this month, exciting improvements are in store for the south end of the island. But before we look forward, let’s glance back at just how far we’ve traveled together.

For about 15 years, the town attempted to establish a solid plan to improve the much-used (but not completely user-friendly) Pope Avenue corridor. Many citizens and businesses had terrific ideas for creating something even more spectacular than what is already there. So, a few years ago the Planning Commission, employing a process similar to the charrette concept, brought people together to brainstorm possible plans for the future. Final plans were captured, recommended to Town Council and approved in 2014.

So, what’s happened since? The town experienced difficulties harnessing the scope of the improvements and identifying contractors able to bid on such an enormous size and variety of work. In hindsight, perhaps this was lucky, since Hurricane Matthew-itself a sizable producer of work-arrived and jumped to the front of the line for resources. Now, as the recovery efforts are winding down, work on the town’s projects and priorities is gearing back up. The Pope Avenue corridor improvements have been divided into multiple projects and are set to proceed. Here’s the most likely sequencing of what to expect and when to expect it.

The first improvements will be road upgrades at the intersections of Pope Avenue, Office Park Road and New Orleans Road, as well as Office Park Road and Greenwood Drive. Work begins this month with completion by June. The contractor and your town staff will manage this project so that it will have little impact on daytime traffic. A temporary signal will be installed, and lane closures will occur at night between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. So, don’t worry! (Be happy!)

Meanwhile, other road and pathway improvements in this area will be bid during the early summer, in anticipation of a September groundbreaking. Nassau Street will be resurfaced and new stormwater drainage added. Parallel parking will be incorporated along the road near the planned destination playground. On Pope Avenue, a new traffic signal will be positioned at the intersection with Lagoon Road, and a dedicated left turn lane will be established. The Lagoon Road intersection at Pope Avenue will be aligned, and Lagoon Road will be extended with 90-degree parking added. On South Forest Beach Drive, near the Coligny Circle, a HAWK signal will provide safe crossing for pedestrians.

We’ll enjoy some terrific pathway improvements, too. The current Tanglewood Drive pathway will be doubled in width to 8-10 feet, becoming a true multi-use path and a viable means of transportation within the area. An entirely new multi-use path will be created on the beach side of South Forest Beach Drive, all the way from Coligny Beach to Tanglewood Drive. By the summer of 2019, residents and their guests will be able to enjoy much of this area on foot or by bicycle.

And let’s not forget the plans for the final phase of improvements: an incredible park. It will feature elements such as a lawn area, paths, playground and the Sandbox Children’s Museum. Requests for bids will be sent out this fall. Work will begin about this time next year, with completion anticipated approximately 15 months from the start, during the spring of 2020. Your town knows that you, as an islander, are quite anxious to experience these south end improvements. Rest assured your town staff is looking forward to them, too. Not only can you expect to see them begin soon, but you can also expect them to be done extremely well, producing more of the high-quality experiences that we enjoy as full-time tourists.

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