Free Way: Tolls Removed From Quickest Way To Hilton Head

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — For the first time in 23 years, it won’t cost drivers anything to take the quickest way to the heart of Hilton Head Island.

Tolls on the Cross Island Parkway were dropped Thursday after South Carolina made its final bond payment on the $81 million road that opened in 1998.

The toll booths will remain up until the Department of Transportation can start a $14 million project to remove them and make other improvements in the coming months. For now, signs are in place reminding drivers to slow down in the area.

The 7-mile (11-kilometer) expressway veers off from the only road to the island just after it crosses the Intracoastal Waterway, allowing drivers to avoid a 12-mile (19-kilometer) route full of stoplights and suburban sprawl.

The toll was $1.25 for a passenger car before it was dropped.

The state now has only one toll road — the Southern Connector which connects Interstate 385 to Interstate 85 south of Greenville. That freeway is about 30 years from having its bonds paid off and dropping the tolls.

Planning for the Cross Island Parkway began in the 1980s and state officials agreed to charge tolls because they didn’t have the money to build the project at the time.

The road was initially called the Cross Island Expressway, but Hilton Head Island residents who carefully control the look and feel of their resort island got the road named a parkway — not surprising in a town that once required the Red Roof Inn to install a brown roof.