Residents voiced concerns on the cost of, time frame and possible cost-effective alternatives of the proposed widening of Hitchcock Parkway this week, a proposal that has been under consideration for several years.

The South Carolina subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Study held its quarterly meeting on Thursday, and S.C. Department of Transportation representatives addressed the proposed widening and answered questions from the public.

Aiken resident Sherill Norton inquired about the estimated cost of the project and how the expenses over time could escalate to a number greater than what had been discussed previously. The estimated cost of the long-term venture submitted by SCDOT is $34.6 million.

One version of the ARTS Transportation Improvement Program dated September 2013 was based on input from SCDOT and included a conceptual design, with a total estimated cost of $43.6 million, said Bob Gilbert, who heads an opposition campaign to the road project.

“I think the central question that Sherrill has alluded to is that the DOT estimate of $34.6 million, No. 1, doesn't include escalation; and No. 2, is it based on a schedule?” said Gilbert.

Randall Young, SCDOT Midlands regional production engineer, said there will be further discussion as to whether or not the project will be done uniformly or in phases.

“There's still a lot of work to be done. Everyday we get a little bit closer to squeezing out an estimate and figuring out exactly how much it costs. Having an estimate that's higher first and then starts to go down a little bit is the norm. We heard from the citizens and we tried to narrow down that scope, and it was narrowed down considerably based on what was needed,” Young said.

Current conceptual plans show SCDOT has narrowed the width of the 5- to 6-mile route, added in separate multiuse paths with sidewalks and 14-foot shared-use lanes. SCDOT has also reduced the width of the center median, added retaining walls in certain areas and reduced the right-of-way impact by 47 percent.

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.