Since opening in January 1998, the Cross Island Parkway (U.S. 278) has served millions of vehicles traversing its path. This 7.5-mile span made it possible for drivers to get from the north end to the south end of Hilton Head Island much quicker.

The tolls the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) collected to pay for this $83 million parkway ends July 2021. I’m certain many of you will be glad to save the money you have spent on daily tolls and the Palmetto Pass transponder.

By the way, SCDOT plans to refund 100% of the transponder deposits and any unused balance of the Palmetto Pass account when the customer closes the account and turns in the transponder.

This toll road, one of two in South Carolina, was the first in modern history to be built in the state and is the only toll road that SCDOT operates. A combination of state funds, federal funds, state highway bonds and $45 million in toll bonds were used to pay for the road that crosses over Broad Creek, giving people spectacular sunrise and sunset views. Once bonds are paid off, the toll ends. 

In preparation for the end of this toll, SCDOT is seeking public input on the proposed conversion of the Cross Island Parkway toll facility to a non-tolled road. The public has the opportunity to comment on an action to amend the 2017-2022 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to include engineering and construction for the conversion.

The 21-day public comment period started Sept. 22 and closes Oct. 13.

This project includes the removal of existing toll infrastructure and roadway improvements required to change the parkway to a conventional, non-tolled four-lane road. In addition, the mainline and ramps between the bridge over Broad Creek and the interchange at U.S. 278 Business will be resurfaced. The parkway itself, after more than 20 years, will need to be resurfaced as well.

Resurfacing is needed, in part, in anticipation of increased volumes of traffic, including more trucks on that road – since people will take the fastest option once toll cost is of no concern.

The conversion project is estimated to cost $14 million. Pending consideration of public comments, the proposed changes will be recommended for inclusion in a future revision to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

The Town of Hilton Head Island strongly supports the end of the toll. Our staff will coordinate with SCDOT on the development of the conversion project, as there is a lot of work to be done to keep the parkway safe and to beautify it.

I know people will continue to use the Cross Island route. The route sees an average annual daily traffic of approximately 24,600 vehicles per day. I hope that drivers who frequently use the parkway will weigh in on this project and let SCDOT know your thoughts.  Please submit your feedback at scdot.org/projects/press-releases-cross-island-pkwy.aspx.

John McCann is the mayor of the Town of Hilton Head Island. JohnM@hiltonheadislandsc.gov