Around 50 residents gathered at the Knights of Columbus building on Spaulding Drive on Thursday evening to hear the results of the first comments gathered regarding issues with Dougherty Road.
The Dougherty Road Corridor Study is under way with URS Consultants working on the project for the City of Aiken and Aiken County. This transportation study cost around $90,000, with 80 percent covered by federal funding – the county and city split the remaining 20 percent.
What was presented on Thursday was very preliminary. No concept plans have been drawn as the study is in its infancy. Information and feedback gathered during a meeting earlier in the month from both residents and business owners were analyzed regarding the 1-mile road that connects Whiskey and Silver Bluff roads.
URS Senior Project Manager Ernie Boughman presented the information at the Thursday night meeting.
A total of three questions were asked to around 70 participants during the Nov. 15 meeting including “Using only one word, how would one describe Dougherty Road as it is today?” Some of the top words were “congested,” “unsafe or dangerous,” “busy,” “inadequate,” “crowded,” “bottleneck,” “frustrating” and “terrible.”
Participants were also asked what is the biggest challenge presented by the road? Top answers included traffic flow, property owner satisfaction, drainage, tight right-of-way (there’s about 60 feet of it), mixed land uses, access and geometry or sight distance.
When asked what they wish people first thought of when hearing “Dougherty Road,” residents said they wanted them to think it was safe and accessible, well done, and attractive.
The study would offer possible solutions to improve the quality of Dougherty Road which is said to be at 94 percent of its design capacity, and is expected to worsen as traffic increases due to a continually growing area. The consultants developed a few guidelines to follow when putting the study together from the feedback they gathered from participants.
They plan to look at improving efficiency by increasing usage of the existing network, look at possible alternate connections and offer more options for people to travel safely by foot or by bike.
“If you feel comfortable enough to walk to Walgreens for a gallon of milk, that’s one car we’ve taken off the road,” Boughman said.
Consultants will also look at responding to demand by finding ways to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. They will look at how to minimize right-of-way acquisition, which was a big concern among residents. The consultants will also look at helping the area establish an identity or “brand the community as a destination.”
Those were only several of the many bullet points that Boughman shared at Thursday’s meeting.
A few concerned residents inquired if they were going to be annexed into the city since a large portion of Dougherty Road is actually in the county. Boughman said that is not part of this study, which is strictly regarding transportation.
He added that he appreciated the participation from the residents and hopes it continues because their feedback is the backbone of the study.
“It’s important that you’re involved right now,” Boughman said. “It’s important that you stay involved.”
Boughman added that once the final product is out, which they’re aiming to complete by May 2013, whatever is in the study could very well be implemented, but it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone.
The next public meeting will tentatively be held in late February.
Comments are still being accepted regarding the study. For a survey and general information on the study, visit www.cityofaikensc.gov/index.php/government/departments/planning/planning-department/dougherty-road-corridor-study or www.aikencountysc.gov, which has a link to the study on its homepage.