Aiken, SC -
Thursday night, hundreds of people showed up to a public input session to get a look at the new plans for the Hitchcock Parkway widening project. Dale Prout lives near Hitchcock Parkway, which is also called the Aiken Bypass. Prout says he is concerned with the project because of the noise. "I can sit in my backyard or on my back patio and screen porch and hear all the traffic that is going up and down the bypass as it is now," Prout said.
A lot of residents are upset because the project is expected to cost more than 31 million dollars, but transportation officials say the road needs to be widened. That's because 18,000 cars take the Aiken Bypass every day.
"Looking at the area we see that it's growing. We have increased commercial growth and people are still moving into the city. So in order to accommodate that growth we're planning 20 years out and looking at those projections to be able to widen the road and accommodate that growth as it comes to the community," SCDOT Program Manager Kevin Gantt said.
But a lot residents feel the projections are wrong and say the money should be spent on other transportation projects.
"It's just not needed with the amount of the reduced that were having due to all the layoffs at the plant," Prout said.
Others have concerns about the historic trees on Hitchcock Parkway, which would have to be cut down in a lot of places when construction begins. But some people, like Joe Heyward, think the widening project is a good idea.
"I think that DOT has done a good job to try and save the aesthetics of aiken and the surrounding communities…I think some of the designs, to me, are a little over board but you know they've done that to make the people in the area satisfied," Heyward said. Regardless of what residents and business owners think, the project is years away from being finalized.
Transportation officials anticipate a public hearing to happen in the fall of 2014. Construction could begin sometime in 2016.