Planned River Watch expansion costing some their property

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

October 30, 2006

With all of the growth in Columbia County, it's time for River Watch Parkway to grow with it.

The Department of Transportation plans to extend the current four lane highway through Old Petersburg Road, which is currently only two lanes.

The project will cost at least $60 million.

Some people say it's also costing them their property.

Bob Wip has lived in his Lynwood Drive home for almost 40 years. He says originally he was told by the DOT that he wouldn't be affected by the expansion.

Now he's stuck looking at an eyesore next door soon to be covered in pine straw, and he's being told the state wants a piece of his property.

"I'll be the corner lot after 40 years," he told News 12. "I don't like it at all. I'll have to put up a wooden fence."

His home is among 283 the state needs to buy in order to widen Old Petersburg Road to a four-lane highway. The expansion will continue from Baston Road to Old Evans Road, ending on Belair.

Laverne Mock's business is right on Old Evans. She says her store has been in limbo now for six years.

"I'm very frustrated, because it cost me a lot of money to move here and put out all the advertising telling people about this location," she said. "And now you're telling me I have to pay all that again?"

Even though construction won't begin until 2010 on the new stretch of road, Ronnie Hutto with Columbia County says it is all designed to alleviate congestion on Washington Road.

"It allows the western part of Columbia County to have free access into downtown Augusta," he said.

So far, the expansion is getting mixed reaction from the community.

"I feel like it'd be a good idea because there's a lot of traffic on this road," said Amanda Malone, who lives near Old Petersburg Road.

"I just don't think it's a good idea because the road's already so close to the houses, and anyone with small children, I'd be concerned about their safety," said another neighbor.

Those being forced to move say they're for progress in Columbia County...they just don't want to be a part of it.

"I guess eventually they'll have to say move on. I might be the last thing standing here," Laverne said.

So far 12 of the 27 homes needed for this project have been bought and destroyed.

Eminent domain laws come into play here...and that's an issue on November's ballot.

The Department of Transportation will start construction in 2010. The project will take two years to complete.


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