BEAUFORT — Officials say rerouting U.S. 21 around Beaufort should ease congestion in getting to the sea islands east of the city.

U.S. 21 used to pass through downtown Beaufort and out to the islands. But the Beaufort Gazette reports ( the federal highway is now routed nearby through Port Royal, making it easier for motorists.

The idea has been in the works for several years and was approved about 18 months ago. Signs recently went up rerouting the highway and Transportation Department officials say it may eliminate almost 19,000 vehicles a day passing through downtown Beaufort.

The old route through the city has been designated state Highway 81.