From The Blog

Roundabout Becomes Reality

After almost nine years of conceiving, planning, negotiating, and constructing, the new roundabout at the intersection of Betsy Kerrison, Kiawah Island Parkway and Seabrook Island Parkway is in place, beautifully landscaped and handling the intersection’s traffic with ease. Who would have guessed the project would take nine years from when it was first discussed.

Back in 1997, Kiawah’s Developer, KRA, and Kiawah’s mayor at the time, Ralph Magnotti, and fellow councilmen were concerned that traffic was building up at the intersection of Betsy Kerrison, Kiawah Island Parkway and Seabrook Island Parkway. The left turn at the intersection into Kiawah, involving roughly two-thirds of the traffic, was becoming more accident-prone and less convenient. Sometimes the waits to allow traffic to clear could be interminable. With the prospect of a retail village being built at this intersection, the issue became a priority.

Although modern roundabouts have been employed in Australia and Europe since the 1960’s, they are relatively new to the U.S. In comparison to traditional stoplight intersections, roundabouts
have proven: …to be safer – head-on and right angle collisions are eliminated, and left turns eliminated – decision making by drivers reduced to one direction. …to be more environmentally sound – less delay, less starting and stopping and less noise and vehicle emissions. …and, for some, to require less maintenance – no electricity bill costs for upkeeping reduced.

In response to this growing need for improved traffic flow at this intersection, a committee of concerned parties, Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI), South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), Kiawah Resort Associates (KRA), Town of Seabrook and Charleston County, selected a basic roundabout design and the next major issue quickly became funding. Seabrook Island was emphatic that they would not contribute funds to the project. Patrick Casey was appointed by Mayor Magnotti to lead the fundraising effort that took some two years to nail down.

As Steve Orban, councilman overseeing construction of the project, and Allison Harvey, the Town’s Administrator, have outlined, the major issues to overcome to develop the new intersection were:

• Size – The Town always wanted a large diameter circle, safely allowing the flow through of more traffic. KRA was concerned about having a huge industrial type circle and suggested a smaller one. While this issue continued to plague negotiations, a compromise was reached at 200 ft.

• Funding – (TOKI $150,000, KRA $2.5 million of land (3.8 acres), and federal funds through SCDOT $2.05 million) – The biggest issue on funding was working out the relationship between the State and Federal highway sources. Federal funds at a two (federal) for one (local) ratio were guaranteed early in the process. Since they were available only thought the state, SCDOT
had to be involved. In numerous meetings including Kiawah’s state and federal political representatives, a satisfactory plan was finally worked out.

• Landscaping – KRA had to be assured before donating the land that the landscaping would be done to “Kiawah standards” – the TOKI design team worked with the Developer’s representatives to assure appealing esthetics at competitively bid costs.

• Haulover Creek Culvert – Replacing the culvert running underneath the Betsy Kerrison proved to be more difficult than expected as a result of (a) problems encountered in locating and rerouting utility lines, (b) and unanticipated need to isolate construction with coffer dames, and (c) adverse weather conditions. Completion of the overall project was delayed three months with two of those months due to difficulties in replacing the culvert.

So, with these problems solved, all the effort has come to fruition: traffic is moving smoothly through the beautifully landscaped intersection.