NORTH AUGUSTA — North Augusta is now home to a Park & Ride facility at Exit 5.

Located between I-20 west and Austin Graybill Road, the $1.6 million facility was constructed to reduce traffic on major arteries in the CSRA and reduce air pollution.

The Park & Ride offers commuters the opportunity to park their cars and connect to public transit or carpool to their destination.

“This is a federally funded project ... that is primarily to encourage carpooling and wiser use of resources,” said Lark Jones, mayor of North Augusta.

The partnership between the City of North Augusta, local and state organizations is the first of its kind in Aiken County, he said.

“The Park & Ride facility is not just a great idea, it’s integral and necessary to address the growing needs of our citizens and to address the aging and stress and underfunded road structure in South Carolina and nationwide,” said Randy Young, Midlands regional production engineer for SCDOT.

Jack Porter, of South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, said following the project from 2004 until completion made the grand opening a happy occasion.

“This facility represents many things – it shows the willingness of this area to invest in a project that reduces mobile source emissions and improves air quality through voluntary actions like ride sharing,” he said. “Secondly, this project does more than benefit air quality – the rain garden contains storm water runoff, benefiting water quality. The LED lighting, which I’m told we’ll have soon, saves energy and reduces maintenance costs.”

The 220-space Park & Ride facility will be a major asset for employees moving across state lines for work, said Will Williams, president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership.

“For the employees of this area, those that commute from the Georgia side that commute to Aiken County to work and those from Aiken County who commute to Georgia, this will be for them to help with cost-savings, as they can travel in one car,” Williams said. “Industry that I deal with are very excited about this because, again, it allows their employees to have a central meeting place to commute to work. One thing that our industries are doing is working day in and day out to reduce their impact on the environment ... This is another thing that they will utilize to help them reduce that footprint.”

The North Augusta Park & Ride facility is located at Interstate 20’s Exit 5 and U.S. Highway 25.