Council to request removal of sidewalks in Parkway expansion
Aiken City Council unanimously approved two resolutions pertaining to the widening of Hitchcock Parkway on Monday.
The first resolution approved by Council is for the South Carolina Department of Transportation to make modifications to the 118 Bypass by removing the sidewalks and narrowing the width of the center median; however, Council amended the resolution to include one multi-use lane for both pedestrians and bicyclists.
The second resolution approved was to request Aiken County Council to commit $5 million to the project from the One-Cent Capital Project Sales Tax funds.
Resident Tom Lex, chairman of the Aiken County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said an initial proposed resolution to delete sidewalks from the bypass was both shortsighted and lacked vision.
“As a city, we need to have a vision and realize there are plenty of communities in South Carolina, across the country, that have recognized the benefits of being bicycling and walking friendly,” Lex said. “They have derived economic benefits, health benefits and overall improvements to the quality of life to those communities.”
Other residents who stood requested Council to consider changing the purpose of the project from capacity to focus more on corridor and operation improvements.
Current conceptual plans dating back to December’s public information session show SCDOT narrowed the width of the 5- to 6-mile route, added in separate multi-use paths with sidewalks and 14-foot shared-use lanes, reduced the width of the center median, added retaining walls in certain areas and reduced the right-of-way impact by 19 acres, or 47 percent.
Council also unanimously approved last year lowering the speed limit throughout the corridor from 55 mph to 45 mph.
SCDOT’s current estimated cost of widening the 118 Bypass with contingencies is $34.6 million.
Existing funds for this amount set aside include $13 million from the State Transportation Improvements Program fund, $9.5 million from the state infrastructure bank, the distribution of the $5 million for the City from the Aiken County’s Capital Project Sales Tax funds and $4 million from the City of Aiken Capital Projects Sales Tax. These funds total $31.5 million.
Council will still have to go before the S.C. Subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Study to seek approval with said modifications.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.