At 7 a.m. on Thursday morning, a line of vehicles about a quarter of a mile long waited to get into Chukker Creek Elementary School.
This is typical on a school day at that time and again starting at approximately 2 p.m. as parents wait to drop off or pick up their children. At times, the traffic is said to be backed up all the way to Whiskey Road.
On Tuesday evening, a plan was presented to the City of Aiken in hopes to alleviate that problem that has left some sitting in traffic as long as 45 minutes. The Aiken City Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of an amendment to a concept plan to extend the school’s driveway by 1,800 feet to allow two lanes for more vehicles to pull into the drop-off area rather than spilling out onto Chukker Creek Road. An additional 40 parking spots were also requested.
S.C. Sen. Tom Young was happy to hear that a solution has been presented to the City and that the Planning Commission found it acceptable. He has heard from a number of constituents, either parents of Chukker Creek students or residents living in near the school, and said a project to resolve the problem has been in the works for more than a year.
“It was important that we found a solution to this ongoing problem,” Young said. “It’s been a real problem for some time and I’m glad this is moving along.”
Young said that input was requested from the S.C. Department of Transportation and the issue later was brought up to the Aiken County Transportation Committee. The Aiken County School District hired an engineer, and now its up to the City on whether the concept plan revisions will be made.
On Tuesday evening, about two dozen residents came to the Planning Commission meeting to discuss the traffic issue. A majority of those residents are in favor of the driveway extension proposal as is.
The school has 852 students with about only 10 to 15 percent of them using the bus. The school currently has 650 feet of driveway for drop offs and pick ups, according to Civil Engineer Tilden Hilderbrand.During pick-up, which is said to be the peak traffic time, approximately 1,800 feet of cars have been seen parked on Chukker Creek Road toward Whiskey Road and approximately 500 feet toward Plantation South, Hilderbrand said.
Residents in that area expressed concern for both the students’ safety and their own. Virginia Dunkelbarger said years ago, a neighbor saw smoke coming from her home and called the fire department. The fire trucks came in with ease. Now, if a fire or some other incident occurred, emergency responders would have a hard time passing the traffic if it’s during drop-off or pick-up times on a school day.
“We want to make sure nobody dies from a fire or an accident and I think all of the Chukker Creek families here agree,” she said, then asking the audience, “What do you think?”
Applause erupted from those there to support the driveway extension.
Brenda Klein, another resident, said it’s like being “held hostage” at her home if she doesn’t leave before the traffic begins to pile up and if she’s out, she can’t return to her house during those times either.
Only a few expressed concern with the extension, stating that they’re not against it but feel the plan wasn’t sufficient.
Michael Sweeney said that something certainly needs to be done, but he’s grown up in the area and watched it expand over the years. He feels that the proposed plan would only be a short-term solution rather than a long term one as the population and the school itself grows. Sweeney said he’d hate to see a meeting five to 10 years later addressing the same exact issue.
“I just wanted to bring that up,” Sweeney said. “The kids’ safety is a number one priority. I’m not against this project at all.”
The first reading by City Council will be held at its Feb. 11 meeting.
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