New traffic signals to relieve bumper to bumper on U.S. 278

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Bumper to bumper traffic is a common sight heading to and from Hilton Head Island. Highway 278 is the only corridor.

If there's a wreck, you better settle in because there is no other route. When DOT says the road can't be widened, how do you keep the traffic moving?

Darrin Shoemaker is the Traffic and Transportation Engineer for the town of Hilton Head and has been monitoring this problem for 17 years. The current lights change based on time of day and the day of the week. They help - somewhat - with rush hour traffic. Josh Parlagraco uses U.S. 278 to commute from Bluffton, SC for work each day. He says if there is any accident or wreck, you better get comfortable.

"A wreck will cause mayhem. It will be bumper to bumper for miles and miles," says Parlagraco. "It backs all the way up to the outlet malls. It's a good thousand cars probably just stopped sitting still if there's a wreck."

The South Carolina Department of Transportation is funding $45,000 to put seven new traffic signals in along the route. They're already in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Greenville areas and will operate in 'real time.' That means there's no specific timing plan and they will detect if there's a wreck causing a back-up. Now that it's off-season, their original plan to begin testing the traffic signals in November might be pushed back.

"We may not necessarily want them here studying during our lowest volume time during the year, which we're now moving into," says Shoemaker.

Shoemaker does not believe the consultant has been contracted to begin work and the start date for this project is still up in the air. Just know that your pain along 278 is being felt by all the right people, and help is on the way.

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