Backers wanted an extra sales tax for road improvements on Beaufort County's Highway 278. It's one of the busiest roads in the Palmetto State. The importance of the issue depends on who you ask. For the people north of the Broad River, no it wasn't that important, and they defeated the referendum by 4,000 votes. But for the people that live and drive on Highway 278, south of the Broad River, it's a step in the wrong direction.
Barry Connor of Citizens for Safer Roads spoke with us about the one-percent sales tax that got the axe in yesterday's election. The bulk of the money raised by the tax would have gone toward widening Highway 278. The tax divided the county, and Connor says it will affect the future of the entire county.
"These are not the only roadway projects we face," said Connor. "This is just a shortlist of urgent needs."
And for drivers who have to commute on this road every day, Connor says the situation is getting worse.
"If it gets so bad, you can't get to work, that's bad economically for Hilton Head Island," he said.
But opponents of the referendum say this just shows that this is a state problem, not a county problem. Connor disagrees.
"Over three quarters of the projects on the list are our responsibilities," he told us.
The town of Hilton Head and Bluffton are growing and so is the traffic; without the one-percent sales tax to generate $663 million for road improvements, what happens now? Connor says money would be best spent on an intelligent traffic system, to regulate the flow of traffic. Either way, it's time now to get back to work for Connor.
"We can't tuck our tails and take this defeat," he said. "We've got to work hard to figure out these problems."
Beaufort County already has $10 million set aside for the widening of Highway 278 from Moss Creek Plantation to Simmonsville Road, but that's it. Projects like the greenway trails and Bluffton Parkway are now on hold.