Some concerned about proposed Aiken road expansion

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Nov. 9, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Hitchcock Parkway runs from Richland Avenue to about Whiskey Road in Aiken. It's the narrow part of the bypass, but people who live along it want to put the brakes on plans that could more than double the size of the road.

If it does, Larry Milner may have to renovate his backyard.

"The new right-of-way would take my fence and my building here," said Milner, as he showed News 12 how close the road is already to his backyard.

However, that's not what's bothering him. The proposed design, which would expand Hitchcock Parkway from two lanes into four or five lanes in some places, could also make traffic noise a lot louder and traffic itself a lot faster.

"You know, you don't have to have a beltway to be a decent city to live in," Milner said.

His concern was echoed by hundreds who showed up to South Aiken High School Thursday night. The South Carolina Department of Transportation hosted the session.

"It's going to be just horrific," said Bob Gilbert, who is leading the opposition effort.

Gilbert says the multi-million dollar project is being sold on bad information. He says it was offered up to help with Savannah River Site traffic, which he says has drastically declined.

"I've been traveling Hitchcock Parkway for 23 years now, 13 of which were at rush hours at morning and evening, and I never had any complaints," he told News 12.

But SCDOT says that's not accurate.

"Right now, there are certain parts of the corridor that are failing at critical times of the day, so we're getting 'D' and 'F' levels of service," said Kevin Gantt, a Program Manager at SCDOT.

He says there are houses in the planned right-of-way, including a church that could be in jeopardy. However, he says there's still plenty of time to satisfy neighbors like Milner.

"You know, I'm not against the progress. I'm not against the project, but I just want it done right," Milner said.

Gantt says the expansion should actually improve traffic flow throughout Aiken, including that on Whiskey Road.

Of course, the process has only just begun. SCDOT doesn't have an official design, in fact, the next public hearing isn't until more than a year from now.

If you would like to submit comments about this project, please do so as follows:
1. Mail your comments to Mr. Kevin Gantt, PE at 955 P.O. Box 191, Columbia, SC 29202
2. Fax your comments to (803) 737-1510
3. Comment via e-mail to ganttkl@SCDOT.org


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