Background: In early 2012, the State Infrastructure Bank awarded the City of Aiken $13.5 million in funding for road improvements. The improvements included the widening of Hitchcock Parkway between Silver Bluff Road and U.S. 1, one of the projects taxpayers voted for when they supported the Capital Projects Sales and Use Tax – also known as one-cent local option sales tax – referendum in November 2010. The City and County had set project priorities, including the widening of Hitchcock Parkway, that were widely publicized prior to the election.
The effort to secure the State Infrastructure Bank funding did not happen overnight; it started six years earlier when the Aiken Chamber collaborated with the City of Aiken, Aiken County and the local legislative delegation to address local transportation infrastructure.
The Chamber's interest in transportation issues actually rose to the forefront in 2007 when a major body of research of voters' attitudes in Aiken, commissioned by the Chamber, revealed that a majority of residents saw transportation as an issue. Since that time, the Chamber has been actively involved in supporting local transportation improvements, including the widening of Hitchcock Parkway between Silver Bluff Road and U.S. 1 to four lanes within the confines of the current right-of-ways, and in a manner that enhances the beauty and functionality of the parkway.
Position: The Aiken Chamber of Commerce reaffirms its original position that supports widening Hitchcock Parkway between Silver Bluff Road and U.S. 1 to four lanes within the confines of the current right-of-ways, and in a manner that enhances the beauty and functionality of the parkway.
Reasons: The Chamber believes that commerce and growth have a direct correlation to quality of life. If the community is to grow and prosper, ultimately enhancing quality of life, then we need an avenue to support the flow of people and commerce. Hitchcock Parkway is one section of a transportation network that circles our city.
Business costs due to traffic congestion will exponentially raise costs and rates to consumers, or could lead to businesses moving to a more transportation friendly community.
Congestion can lead to unsafe conditions, and having a safe roadway is paramount to moving people and commerce.
Congestion can also impede the transport of people with life-threatening conditions to medical facilities, creating a serious quality of life issue.
Finally: The Aiken Chamber is not endorsing a particular plan – just the concept that Aiken will benefit by the widening of Hitchcock Parkway. We do commend the City of Aiken on its proactive effort to develop a road concept that is respectful of those who live along the parkway and of those who use the parkway to travel for work, shopping and recreation. The City's effort could be instrumental in brokering a palatable solution with the S.C. Department of Transportation.
J. David Jameson is the president and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.