Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said he would not argue the points presented in a letter sent by Carroll Law Offices on behalf of a group of residents who are in opposition of the expansion of Hitchcock Parkway.
The letter, sent from attorney Dioné C. Carroll to Aiken County and City of Aiken lawyers, as well as the S.C. Department of Transportation, on behalf of a group of Aiken residents who oppose the current widening proposal, said the true cost of the project could “easily exceed” $50 million.
Cavanaugh responded to the Aiken Standard in an email Monday night.
“Yes, I did see the letter, and I will not argue the points the letter presents, but instead stick to the facts that SCDOT has presented in several meetings and the facts that thousands of our citizens know because they, me included, drive on the parkway many times a week,” Cavanaugh wrote.
The opposition group, known as Concerned Citizens, is using Carroll Law Offices to represent their fight against widening Hitchcock Parkway. Carroll sent the letter dated July 11 to various attorneys on both the state and local level, criticizing the SCDOT’s estimate for the project’s completion and potential environmental violations.
The attorney’s correspondence was prompted by a letter dated June 4, written by Cavanaugh to Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, that stated if SCDOT’s December estimate of $31.6 million for the project’s completion was accurate, then an additional $5 million would be needed to fully fund it.
Cavanaugh further asked that $5 million be provided by the County through a 2010 Capital Project Sales Tax project.
There already is $26.6 million committed to the project, made up of both local and state funds.
That total is split three ways – $4 million from the City of Aiken, $9.6 million from the S.C. Transportation Improvement Bank and $13 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program. SCDOT previously gave the project an estimate of $31.6 million, but the estimate rose to $34.6 million in May.
Carroll wrote in the letter that the $5 million request isn’t enough to fully fund the project.
“The $31.5 million prediction in the June 4th letter is unreasonable and not based on current reality,” Carroll wrote. “It would be irresponsible to believe that there will not be more money needed or that the project sponsor will not come to public sources, with hand outstretched, looking for millions more dollars ...”
In Cavanaugh’s email, he also referenced a letter he sent to residents some time ago outlining the need for the parkway’s expansion – growth, traffic volume, uptick in residential neighborhoods, congestion and safety.
“I moved to Aiken 61 years ago, and I care about the Parkway and our community as much as anyone, and like others, I don’t look forward to the inconvenience that will come with the changes,” Cavanaugh stated in that letter. “However, based on the information we have, I think the facts clearly show that the Parkway needs to be widened to 4 lanes. I strongly feel we must plan for the future of our great Aiken community, and would appreciate your support for this four lane project.”
Calls to the Concerned Citizens group and Carroll Law Offices were not returned by press deadline.
The S.C. Subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Study will revisit Hitchcock Parkway’s possible expansion at a public meeting this week.
The meeting will be held Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Sandlapper Room on the first floor of the new Aiken County Government Center.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.