Hitchcock Parkway: Built To Tie Again Together, Debate Tearing - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Hitchcock Parkway: Built To Tie Again Together, Debate Tearing Aiken Apart

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Aiken, SC -

While Hitchcock Parkway was built to tie different parts of Aiken together, a debate about that roadway is tearing some sections of apart.  The debate started with a South Carolina Department of Transportation presentation in November, proposing an expansion to a four lane road with a large right-of-way.  Now, some infuriated citizens, citizens like Mike Rubin, say, the city's own study proves an expansion is not only expensive, but unnecessary.

Rubin says he loves Aiken:  He owns thousands of acres across the country, but he choose to spend his time in Aiken.

"I rode through and I was so enamored that within four days I bought a house," he says.

So, Rubin says for the past 13 years, he's driven up and down Hitchcock Parkway nearly every day.

"At any hour of the day, I've never had a problem moving on it," he says.

Rubin and another resident Robert Gilbert say the city's own report shows the traffic keeps on moving, and that the city shouldn't keep moving forward with the plan for a large expansion in the name of growth- in fact they say if the road grows, Aiken may not.

"People don't move to Aiken because we have freeways, they move here because we don't," Gilbert says.

A "Level of Service" study compares the volume of a road compared to the capacity of the road.  While some roads like Silver Bluff Road and Whiskey Road have intersections that are deemed congested or extremely congested, Hitchcock Parkway is ranked average.

"The prioritization is completely skewed and nonsensical," Gilbert says.

City leaders agree that the initial plan from DOT was out of sync with Aiken:

"When DOT came in and proposed that outlandish expansion with four lanes and a right of way, citizens were understandably upset," Aiken City Councilman Dick Dewar says.

But, he says other studies show the road is over capacity, particularly at the ends where it touches Silver Bluff and University Parkway.

"If it were up to me we'd do that first, then talk about the rest," he says.

"If we just build a five lane freeway, that does nothing to solve the problems at the end," Gilbert says.

Dewar says he won't just green light a SCDOT plan.

"I want to know exactly what it will look like before it gets my vote, and if they can't tell me, I won't vote for it," he says.

And some residents say they know what it needs to look like:

"For probably 10 percent of the cost, you could fix the intersection, a couple of lanes for turns," Rubin, who is also a developer, says.

Gilbert also says he knows how this should not be done.

"This needs to be done smartly," he says.  "That hasn't happened.  This is a meat ax rather than a scalpel.  We need a scalpel, not a meat ax."

Citizens say they aren't only concerned by the up front cost of the expansion which would be at least $5 million per mile, but also by the long-term maintenance costs that expansion would bring.

Dewar says city leaders understand those concerns and will address them after SCDOT's next presentation; that presentation is scheduled for November.

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