BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Members of the public now have a chance to voice their opinions for a plan to convert a stretch of South Carolina parkway into a toll-free road.
The Cross Island Parkway project is a part of South Carolina’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
The Cross Island Parkway is one of two toll rolls in the Palmetto State- the only one that is operated by the South Carolina Department of Transportation, but by next summer, it won’t cost you $1.25 to drive the road.
“It was about an $83 million project, about $45 million of it were paid with what are called toll bonds- it’s basically a loan that was going to be repaid with the toll revenues, so it has been successful as a toll road, so when those toll bonds are paid off, which will occur on July first of 2021," explained Justin Powell, the Finance Deputy Security for SCDOT. "At that point the toll will be lifted forever.”
The road was constructed in 1998 and the vast majority of its traffic comes during the summer tourism months. Around an average of 30,000 cars will go through on a single weekend.
The toll road costs $3.8 million annually to operate.
Earlier this month, the South Carolina Transportation commission approved a public comment period for the proposed design and construction work.
“The toll will cease. We will eventually tear down the toll plazas, we’ve got to close out all the accounts-- people that have Palmetto Pass accounts, and then one of the things that is going to occur," Powell said. "When it’s free, everybody is probably going to take that option- there is no choice at that point. You take the free road and the fastest way, so we need to upgrade the pavement in that section of road so it can handle a much higher volume of traffic.”
The public comment period opened on the Sept. 22 and will end Oct. 13. Please click here to submit a public comment.
“The Town of Hilton Head Island strongly supports the end of the toll and will coordinate with the SCDOT on the development of this conversion project,” said Josh Gruber, deputy town manager for Hilton Head Island. “We hope the public will take advantage of this opportunity to share their comments on the proposed conversion project from a toll to non-tolled road.”
The state says it would take about $14 million to remove the toll infrastructure and convert the road into a conventional, four-lane road.
“Then the maintenance and repair of that system will be paid for through the gas tax like any other road in South Carolina," Powell added.
The Department of Transportation said it could be several months after the toll ends in July for them to complete the project on the Cross Island Parkway (U.S. 278).