A S.C. Department of Transportation official stood by the current estimated cost of $34.6 million to expand Hitchcock Parkway.

Randall Young, SCDOT Midlands regional production engineer, said staff currently is working with the City of Aiken after Aiken City Council asked SCDOT to review cost-saving techniques to expand the parkway.

In front of a packed room at the Aiken County Government Center on Thursday, Young updated the S.C. Subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Study on various road projects throughout Aiken County.

Young said Hitchcock Parkway’s development phase is in process, and SCDOT is developing right-of-way plans and preparing the environmental assessment document for a future public hearing.

Currently, the total estimated cost of the long-term project submitted by SCDOT is $34.6 million for work done from U.S. Highway 1 to Silver Bluff Road to U.S. 302.

There already is $26.6 million committed to the project, made up of both local and state funds. That funding is supposed to come from three sources – $4 million from the City of Aiken, $9.6 million from the S.C. Transportation Improvement Bank and $13 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program.

Current conceptual plans show SCDOT narrowed the width of the 5- to 6-mile route and included separate multi-use paths with sidewalks and 14-foot shared-use lanes.

Plans also show a reduced width of the center median, the addition of retaining walls in certain areas and a reduction in the right-of-way impact.

City Council also previously voted to make that stretch of the bypass 45 mph.

Young said talks are still underway of how to phase the project.

“Again, there are scenarios that have to be run to figure out how we could break up that project ...” Young said. “We believe the breaking point is at Huntsman (Drive) at either direction. The possibility of phasing the work is definitely a possibility.”

After the meeting finished, a few residents asked questions and stood to speak in opposition of the parkway expansion.

Attorney Dioné C. Carroll, of Carroll Law Offices, spoke on behalf of the Concerned Citizens group, which consists of residents opposed to the widening plan in its current form.

She pressured the subcommittee, which includes Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, to look more thoroughly at plans to widen the bypass and its potential environmental impacts.

A public hearing to look over updated conceptual designs is tentatively scheduled for early 2015.

Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.