Gary Bunker’s summary on Aug. 19 of the Hitchcock Parkway widening issues was excellent. Although he doesn’t mention it, most do agree on this: Whatever is built should still look like a parkway. A parkway has significant landscaping and buffers, mirroring the character of Aiken. The S.C. Department of Transposition’s designs don’t do this.
The department uses rigid solutions to move traffic from A to B without considering surrounding neighborhoods or the character of Aiken.
It’s possible to do both, and the key, as Bunker said, is for the S.C. Augusta Regional Transportation Study Subcommittee, composed of local officials including two Aiken City Council members, to change the project’s “Purpose and Needs Statement” from “Capacity Driven” to “Corridor Improvements/Operational Improvements.”
This relaxes the transportation department’s rigid design criteria. Whether it’s three or four lanes it can be designed to look like a real parkway. This is what Aiken is about: protecting the beauty of the community while accommodating the needs of the future.
Let’s remember that since Hitchcock Parkway opened 35 years ago, vibrant neighborhoods, churches and businesses adjoining it have been built and matured.
It’s not a vacant right of way through open land. It’s a landscaped, wooded and urbanized area of rolling terrain.
Widening it as proposed by the state’s transportation department will create a wide and ugly gash.
It will transform the area to a degree that will shock us. Once the trees and buildings are razed, it will be too late to fix. It needs creative solutions that “capacity driven” design won’t allow.
The city should act now on its Feb. 6 letter to the transportation department stating they will ask the subcommittee to change the design criteria.
Lawrence S. Comegys