Commission votes for partial funding to widen parkway

Staff photo by Maayan Schechter
Aiken residents scanned over statistics about widening Hitchcock Parkway provided by resident Bob Gilbert, who spoke in opposition to funds proposed for the project during the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday. Planning Commission voted 3-2 in recommending the five-year major Capital Improvement Program projects to City Council.
Staff photo by Maayan Schechter Aiken residents scanned over statistics about widening Hitchcock Parkway provided by resident Bob Gilbert, who spoke in opposition to funds proposed for the project during the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday. Planning Commission voted 3-2 in recommending the five-year major Capital Improvement Program projects to City Council.

Aiken Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the five-year major Capital Improvement Program projects to City Council on Tuesday night.

Commission Chair Liz Stewart and member Kent Cubbage voted in opposition after discussion of a potential widening of Hitchcock Parkway became a key focus.

According to related documents, the amount allocated for the widening is estimated at about $4 million. Cubbage questioned whether money allocated for the 118 bypass could go toward other improvements like turning lanes and widening existing lanes.

For the Planning Commission's information, City Manager Richard Pearce said the $4 million was approved by residents, by a 60 percent margin, in the third round of one-cent sales tax money. The $4 million will be used to leverage a grant from the state infrastructure bank for $9.5 million.

“That matches the $13 million from State Transportation Improvement (Program) funds,” Pearce said. “The total funding is $26.5 million – additional one-cent sales tax committed by Aiken County but in a ascertained amount.”

Capital improvement projects are submitted by each department, and a major project expenditure is for any new construction, renovation or maintenance of $100,000 or more.

Other projects include a Senior-Youth Eustis Recreation Park, estimated at $3.5 million, and renovations to Public Safety Headquarters, estimated at $900,000.

Many residents voiced comments in opposition to the widening all together. The focus then shifted back to Commission's role on how to recommend the projects.

“You are simply approving the $4 million for this project,” Pearce said. “After many years of walking this through with the STIP money, with Capital Project Sales Tax one-cent sales money, and state infrastructure bank money ... We're much farther down the road with the funding, but the $4 million is a deep component.”

In other business, Planning Commission unanimously recommended the Natural Resources Element draft go to City Council for a vote.

Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter

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