A plan to resolve the Chukker Creek Road school traffic congestion got first approval Monday evening by Aiken City Council.
The vote on first reading was unanimous to allow an 1,800-feet extension of the driveway of Chukker Creek Elementary School located at 1830 Chukker Creek Road. An additional 40 parking spaces were also requested, which was approved on first reading as well.
The school has 852 students and only 10 to 15 percent of them use the bus. The school currently has 650 feet of driveway for drop-offs and pick-ups. Pick-up, which starts at 2 p.m., is said to be the peak traffic time and approximately 1,800 feet of cars have been seen parked on Chukker Creek Road toward Whiskey Road and approximately 500 feet toward Plantation South, according to Civil Engineer Tilden Hilderbrand.
Councilwoman Gail Diggs asked how long it takes for the traffic to clear during drop-off and pick-up. Hilderbrand said it takes approximately an hour for all the vehicles to clear.
Hilderbrand presented a conceptual drawing of a serpentine driveway that would wrap around the east and north portion of the property to accommodate the traffic. The S.C. Department of Transportation approved the plan prompted by Aiken County School District to fix the problem.
Some residents who reside on or off of Chukker Creek Road asked Council to approve the plan before there is a serious or fatal accident.
Tony Sealy was one of those residents and he described the current traffic situation difficult and dangerous.
“I think this is a very good approach to solve that problem and I hope you vote in favor of it,” he said to Council.
Sandy Randall, another resident who lives off Chukker Creek Road, said her main concern was for the safety of the children.
“If you lose a child, you can’t get that child back,” Randall said. “This is a very dangerous, dangerous situation.”
Lots that line the east and north portion of the school’s property are in the Woodside neighborhood and concern was expressed by some of those residents about the serpentine driveway bringing the vehicles closer to their homes. Residents were also uncomfortable with the possibility of not having a thick enough buffer to help muffle noise coming from the school as well as keeping them from being exposed to fumes from idling engines.
Since the Planning Commission meeting earlier this month when the conceptual drawing was first presented, Hilderbrand increased the proposed 10-foot undisturbed buffer to 25 feet.
Hilderbrand added that if the plan is approved, the closest the extended driveway would be to the eastside property lines would be approximately 36 feet and 42 feet to the northside property lines.
Retired engineer Philip Winsor lives on the back end of the school’s property and said he agrees that there is a traffic problem but does not agree with the proposed solution. He presented his own plan that would not include the serpentine design but rather adding parallel lanes in the pick-up area.
The final reading will be held at the next Aiken City Council meeting to take place on Feb. 11.