Residents Concerned About Road Widening Project

Sometimes there's a price for progress, especially when it comes to road work. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is widening the part of Highway 21 that runs right through St. Helena Island, known for its rich Gullah culture. Many residents are concerned that the South Carolina Department of Transportation's plan could change that.

"It's one of the real last communities on the East Coast with a living, thriving, Gullah culture," said Elizabeth Santagati. "It's very important to this community because it brings so much history here and it's so much a part of how Beaufort County was and how the South was."

The DOT's plans call for an expanded highway, with three lanes, one going each direction and a wide center lane for turning. It's a plan many fear will bring overdevelopment to the area.

"We all know that the beginning of development is the highways," said Santagati. "Once the infrastructure is in place, there's nothing really to stop the development."

Although the department of transportation plans to widen the highway to resolve congestion problems, area residents say that isn't the answer. "I don't think widening the road is going to help much," said resident Charlotte Nielson. "If we had a few traffic lights added to the road, I think that would help."

Others suggest reducing the speed limit and putting in turn lanes to improve the safety of the highway. Many residents are also concerned the expanded highway will destroy their creeks and rivers, which they eat out of.

The DOT's holding a public hearing tonight at St. Helena Elementary School to give the community an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey,