Sep. 25—After a delay, plans are moving forward to conduct transportation studies on two busy Aiken County thoroughfares, where the potential for additional commercial and residential development is high.
Plans call for the close examination of the southern portion of Whiskey Road in the Aiken and New Ellenton areas and Bettis Academy Road in Graniteville.
During Aiken County Council's meeting Sept. 21 at the Aiken County Government Center, the panel approved resolutions to award contracts conditionally to consultants to carry out the research.
One resolution recommended putting AECOM Technical Services Inc. of Columbia in charge of the Whiskey Road Feasibility Study.
The other recommended Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. of Columbia to oversee the Bettis Academy Road Corridor Study.
The contracts with them still must be negotiated.
The Aiken Regional Transportation Study (ARTS), Aiken County Transportation Committee and Edgefield County Transportation Committee will provide funding.
ARTS is a Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Joel Duke, Aiken County's chief development officer, told the Aiken Standard in July 2020 that he hoped consultants would be hired and working on the studies by September or October of that year.
But "progress on each was disrupted by COVID-19," he wrote in an email sent to the Aiken Standard recently.
In a 2020 email, Duke wrote the following about why the studies are needed:
"Stretching approximately seven miles between Ascauga Lake Road and U.S. Highway 25, Bettis Academy Road is the primary transportation corridor serving the Sage Mill Industrial Park and an expanding array of residential and commercial developments.
"The 4 1/2 -mile section of Whiskey Road from Powderhouse Road to the New Ellenton city limits serves as a principal commuter route to the Savannah River Site and as access to various residential and commercial uses. The ongoing economic development in both corridors will eventually impact how efficiently the routes move traffic and provide access to homes and businesses. The studies are needed to provide state and local policy makers with the tools and roadway improvement necessary to accommodate the evolving corridors."
At that time, Joel also wrote that the studies would be designed to do the following:
—Analyze current land uses and project future growth along each corridor.
—Recommend development practices for extending the functional life and capacity of the existing roadways.
—Propose options for maintaining each corridor's dual role as a major thoroughfare and access to local commerce and housing.
—Identify any existing deficiencies and determine what improvements might be needed in roadway design, capacity and safety.
—Determine the feasibility and costs of any proposed improvements.
In County Council's Sept. 21 vote on the resolutions concerning the transportation studies, all of the panel's members supported them except for Willar Hightower, who represents District 8.
All nine County Council members were present at the meeting.