In reply to the question “Who has pull?” in the TalkBack section of Oct. 25, I can honestly state that it is entirely Mayor Fred Cavanaugh’s decision as chairman of the S.C. Augusta Regional Transportation Subcommittee.
He has made it his political life’s goal to have a beltway constructed around Aiken starting with the Hitchcock Parkway. However, with this goal in mind, he is completely ignoring the fact that he will destroy the beauty and the attraction of downtown Aiken. More importantly, Cavanaugh’s beltway will also dramatically affect the retail environment in downtown Aiken. Cavanaugh’s continued inflexibility on this project will result in the closings of many wonderful little shops in the downtown area and change the environment that so many small shop owners have created.
David Jameson, the president and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, must not have thought of this either. He explains in a column written on Oct. 27 that the widening of the Hitchcock Parkway has been in the works since 2007, when the State Infrastructure Bank awarded the City of Aiken $13.5 million for road improvements. This means road improvements all over the area besides the widening of the Hitchcock Parkway.
May I bring to Jameson’s attention that the widening of the Hitchcock Parkway alone will cost $43.5 million. Where is the rest of the money coming from for the Hitchcock Parkway and the remainder of the roads and bridges, which are in desperate need of repair? Another important fact is that traffic on the parkway has decreased significantly over the past few years as 48,000 people no longer live in the area since the drawdown began at the Savannah River Site. It will keep on going down, as it has come to my attention that people are already leaving Aiken because they feel the city is losing its character and charm.
What is the Aiken Downtown Development Association’s position on this? So far, it has remained silent on this project that will have a dramatic change on Aiken’s downtown retailers who have worked so hard in creating Aiken’s downtown uniqueness and contribute significantly to the tax base. Sounds like this has become a political issue among our leaders: “You support me, I support you, whether I agree or not.”