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Column: The road to more traffic must be blocked – Aiken Standard

Submitted Photo Pictured is an apartment complex constructed by the same developer that is aiming to construct the new 60-unit apartment complex off Owens Street.

Submitted Photo Pictured is an apartment complex constructed by the same developer that is aiming to construct the new 60-unit apartment complex off Owens Street.

The intersection of Whiskey and Dougherty roads could get even more backed up after the Aiken Planning Commission recommended an annexation request to City Council of nearly 5 acres of land earmarked for a new apartment complex located off Owens Street, just a block off the Whiskey and Dougherty roads intersection.

While we firmly believe in annexation as a way of growing the City and its tax base and further agree that property owners should be able to develop their own land to its highest and best use, this decision will take some careful consideration. To be sure, the developer who wants to build the complex is not to blame for the horribly mired traffic at one of the busiest intersections in Aiken. City, County and state transportation planners have long insisted that action is required to widen Dougherty, add turn lanes and make other changes to eliminate the bottleneck there. The question remains – why have they done little more than cosmetic and largely ineffective work to remedy the problem?

The proposed apartment complex, tentatively titled Bridle Ridge Point, is a proposed 60-unit development comprised of three buildings featuring four-bedroom, three-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

City Council will hear the first reading of the proposed annexation recommended by the Planning Commission during its Jan. 25 meeting.

City Council member Dick Dewar said the City needs to be careful about the level of annexation it is currently undertaking.

“We have some developments that are scary from a traffic standpoint,” Dewar said. “This is a problem that isn’t getting any better.”

Dewar also serves as the one of the City’s representatives on the subcommittee of the Augusta Regional Transportation Study, a group made up of area officials tasked to look at funding for infrastructure projects spread throughout the county.

Although Dewar said it will take a long time to fix Whiskey Road congestion problems, developments continue to line up along the road.

“I have said from day one that we need to have a full-time traffic engineer dealing with this,” Dewar said. “We haven’t had a traffic study yet that has said ‘no’ to a development.”

Fellow transportation committee member and County Council member Camille Furgiuele, who represents District 2, has long championed the Whiskey Road corridor study cause. Furgiuele will recommend that the ARTS committee move forward in February with the study after the next committee meeting. During the November committee meeting, Furgiuele said funding for the study should become available by its first meeting of 2016.

“The study mostly involves storm water needs along Whiskey Road,” Dewar said.

“It includes everything needed along Whiskey Road, but it mostly deals with storm water, which is critical.”

Fellow City Council member Reggie Ebner cautioned Council during its Monday night meeting not to get ahead of itself with annexing properties for development without first having a storm water management system in place to accommodate the new businesses.

“We need to get proactive and have a storm water system in place for that portion of Whiskey Road with adequate sewer capabilities to accommodate these new businesses. They are coming and we need to be ready.”

Problems with the Whiskey Road corridor will get worse before they get better, Dewar warned.

Interim Planning Director Tommy Paradise said the proposed 60-unit apartment complex would have a minimal impact on the traffic corridor.

“Granted, any additional traffic in an already bad traffic area isn’t good; but this apartment complex will add less than 500 trips a day coming and going,” he said.

Paradise said a second traffic study regarding the Whiskey and Dougherty roads intersection is planned.

Tabbed as one of the busiest roads in Aiken County, the traffic along the Whiskey Road corridor has long been on the City, County and state’s list of things to improve. Despite those best wishes, the road remains virtually unchanged after at least two decades of study and hand wringing.

The City Council should let the apartment complex move forward and annex the property. At the same time, they should move forward with actually completing long-planned improvements to Dougherty Road, followed by the Whiskey Road corridor itself.

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