Admissions Fee Surcharge Could Help Pay for Road Work - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/26/05

Admissions Fee Surcharge Could Help Pay for Road Work

Did you get caught in the construction traffic last week? It backed up for miles and hours on Highway 278 in Beaufort County.

Traffic is now flowing much better because the steel plates on the highway that were causing a lot of the problems were removed. In fact, from now on, someone from the Department of Transportation will be on site at all times to keep traffic flowing.

They've also pushed back the lane closures to 9pm instead of 7pm.

Beaufort County's working on another solution to congestion on 278: extending the Bluffton Parkway. Starting in October, the county will begin implementing a 2 1/2 percent admissions fee throughout the county on such things as golf, movies, and night clubs.

Plans to extend the Bluffton Parkway from Simmonsville Road to Highway 170 are finally moving forward. It's a $30 million project many county officials say just couldn't wait any longer.

"Given the current congestion and conditions on 278, given the number of accidents on 278, the Bluffton Parkway is essential to move people throughout Beaufort County," said Weston Newton, chairman of the Beaufort County Council.

Since this project isn't eligible for state or federal funding, the county is imposing the fee to help pay for the project. Many residents say they don't mind paying.

"If that's what it takes, that's what it takes," said Nathan Swearer.

"It's not going to solve the problem, but if it contributes to the solution in some way, I have no objection," said Frank White.

"It won't affect me in any way," said Bob Freeman. "I think anything to help alleviate traffic in Bluffton is good."

County council members say the idea is to take the burden off local taxpayers and impose it on the tourists who come to visit. But some residents say they're still having to pay the price.

"I've got two kids, so I don't like it," said Holly Jenkins. "The movies are expensive enough and we enjoy going to the Heritage every year. We just keep getting more fees and more fees."

Jenkins says this additional fee could affect their quality of life. "It probably won't add up to that much more money, but I probably will think twice."

The admission fee will start in October and construction on the Bluffton Parkway is expected to start in November.

The county is looking at extending the parkway from Burnt Church Road to Buckingham Landing. Then west, from Highway 170 to I-95. But they're actually hoping to get federal and state dollars to build that.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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