Traffic Tales

While visiting Massachusetts recently, my wife recounted — with a wry smile and a faraway look — the hours she endured in stand-still traffic during her decades there. Ironically, her most vivid memories were those of approaching two bridges: the Tobin, crossing into Boston, and the Bourne, over Cape Cod Canal. Her stories resonate with others told to me by long- and short-term Islanders. All lead me to these thoughts to share about traffic, professing them to be neither exhaustive nor scientific.

Most visitors don’t enjoy traffic, although the thick lines of vehicles approaching the Island confirm that our guests are, indeed, arriving somewhere everyone wants to be. Some tourists take traffic in stride. They’re from places with “real” traffic (as they say) and are in no hurry except to get to the beach. They just hit traffic when it happens and get through it whenever they get through it. Other travelers consider traffic part of the Hilton Head Island challenge, and invest time in planning an elaborate approach. Either way, as long as vacationers are traveling to the place they want to be, they will come, just as they continue to pile onto the Bourne (or Sagamore!) Bridge to Cape Cod.

Most who brave traffic to get to work don’t relish the experience. They know, however, the usual delays. When commuting to Boston, my wife equipped herself for her time on the Tobin — coffee, breakfast, the Wall Street Journal — then strategically positioned her car near someone’s she knew. Of course, commuters prefer spending as little time as possible stuck between the place they desire to be and the place they must be. Here again, so long as their business and professional goals are being achieved on the Island, they’ll make the most of it.

Most of our locals are traffic and timing gurus. Intimately familiar with patterns and pitfalls, they don’t savor sitting still in a running vehicle. They work on an ever-changing, intricate Hilton Head Island 3-D jigsaw puzzle. The pieces represent routes, times and days. And they get themselves exactly where they need to be, usually in short order.

Each group rarely complains unless their pattern or plan is unexpectedly (or unnecessarily) interrupted. (Think construction delay or accident.) In fact, when put in the context of life’s myriad challenges, it’s one of our minor complaints.

Our Town works most diligently and continuously to improve traffic (and other) conditions. One indication is the progress we’ve made by land, with our brand-new seasonal trolley service, the Breeze ( Over the water, we’re working on the State-funded replacement of one of our bridge spans, which has been declared structurally deficient. We are also asking citizens to become informed about the Beaufort County’s Transportation Sales Tax Referendum question on November’s ballot. It may provide funds for additional Gateway improvements ( We are working already to realign busy roads and adjust signal timing at intersections. And finally, we worked to extend our airport runway, allowing the very first commercial jet to land here on July 5.

Life has its complications, even on vacation, and in the end, we will likely never perfect traffic flow. But we press on toward the goal of excellence Islanders deserve. And along the way we accumulate traffic tales to share for generations.

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