Mayor Fred Cavanaugh says we need to widen Hitchcock Parkway. Since the mayor has lived in Aiken much longer than I have, he probably is more qualified to say which Aiken roads should be widened. However, I have lived in places where there are a lot of highways, interchanges, freeways and beltways, so I know what those kinds of roads can do to a community.

Most of us who live in Aiken have a high quality of life. There is much more to our quality of life than being able to drive really fast around our city. Downtown Aiken is one of our most precious attractions, so all roads should lead downtown, instead of around it. Won’t widening Hitchcock Parkway hurt the downtown business district? Experience tells me that the quality of life will be eroded for people who live near a four-lane Hitchcock beltway. Build it and they will come. Wider roads mean more traffic, more noise and air pollution. Many drivers will go faster than the maximum 45-mph speed limit set by the Aiken City Council. Won’t that make Hitchcock beltway less safe?

Anyone who cares about protecting the environment and wildlife should be concerned that widening Hitchcock Parkway will shrink the habitat of wildlife in the area, threatening their survival and turning them into pests.

Furthermore, Aiken County has about 36 bridges that are structurally deficient, and many existing roads in need of repair. Given our limited resources, shouldn’t these projects have priority over widening Hitchcock Parkway for possible future growth?

Is expanding Hitchcock Parkway into a four-lane highway with an island in the middle really necessary?

Maybe left-turn lanes, traffic lights and a four-foot-wide shoulder on each side of the road are sufficient. That would avoid years of inconvenience, save a lot of money and keep Aiken from becoming “a great big freeway” such as Los Angeles and some other cities. Leave the trees, mayor, leave the trees.

Anthony J. DiStefano