Aiken's Powderhouse Road Connector project fully funded, ground to be broken next year

·3 min read

Sep. 15—Whiskey Road traffic could be getting lighter in a few years.

The City of Aiken and S.C. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, held a news conference Thursday morning to announce the city will receive $21.3 million from the State Infrastructure Bank for the Powderhouse Road Connector project.

The Powderhouse Road Connector project involves the construction of a limited access road to replace Oak Grove Lane (the road between National Tire and Cracker Barrel across from East Gate Drive) to connect with Powderhouse Road at a Y-interchange south of Affordable Quality Marble and Granite. South Centennial Drive would be extended to connect with the new road at a traffic circle.

Limited access roads are roads that only allow access at specific points and not haphazardly like on Whiskey Road.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said the funding from the infrastructure bank provides all of the funding to complete the project, which is expected to relieve 18% to 24% of the traffic on Whiskey Road when it is completed in five or six years.

He said the city received $8 million from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act thanks to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The city received $7.6 million for the project when Aiken County voters approved a county-wide capital project sales tax in 2018. Also, the County Transportation Committee committed $621,000 to the project and the city provided an additional $525,000.

"It's going to be a gamechanger for us," Osbon said. "What we did learn from Whiskey Road is that we don't want to create another one so it's limited access. It also opens up 400 acres for development that can be planned and that will help Aiken grow in a manner that we all want to see and without adding to that congestion."

He said the project has been a long-term goal of the city.

Osbon said the project was first identified in a 2006 study.

"The study was right on track but like a lot of studies it ended up probably on a shelf for a little bit," Osbon said. "But, it didn't gather dust for too long. When I first came in [in 2015], I remember having conversations with Councilwoman [Lessie] Price and others about the issue and the study kept coming up in conversation."

He said the city pulled the study off the shelf and determined that its proposal was still a viable solution to the issue of crowding on Whiskey Road.

In 2020, the city submitted an application for funding to the State Infrastructure Bank.

Osbon said the request was continued to allow the city to work with the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Augusta Regional Transportation Study to provide additional information for the project.

Finally, last week, the request for funding was granted.

Osbon credited Young for working with the city every step of the way to make sure the project got funded.

"Senator, we wouldn't be standing here today without you," he said.

Young credited the entire county legislative delegation.

"You can't get anything done in Columbia without teamwork and a lot of persistence," Young said. "Our Aiken County legislative delegation has worked tirelessly together on this and we're so happy with the final product, to see that this road will finally be funded and alleviate traffic on Whiskey Road."

The first phase of the project, the extension of Centennial and the construction of the new road to the traffic circle, is expected to take 18-24 months to complete after ground is broken in the first quarter of 2023. The second phase, the connection of the traffic circle to Powderhouse Road, is expected to take five or six years.