Aiken City Council to revisit potentially massive Whiskey Road corridor redesign

August 27, 2018

On Monday, Aug. 27, the Aiken City Council will discuss an estimated $120 million project that would – if pursued and completed as currently drafted – completely overhaul Whiskey Road and the areas around it.

During the noon work session, City Council will hear from Rick Toole, the president of W.R. Toole Engineers. Toole will provide an update on the “Whiskey Road Corridor Congestion Relief Project,” a three-pronged, multilateral infrastructure odyssey.

Work sessions are open to the public. City Council meets at the Municipal Building, 214 Park Ave. S.W.

The first project prong, according to a presentation included in City Council documents, is along Whiskey Road itself. Improvements along the road – stretching 2.6 miles, per the presentation – would total nearly $33 million, with construction costs and stormwater work sucking up a vast majority of that figure.

City Council member Dick Dewar has repeatedly stressed the importance of addressing stormwater issues along Whiskey Road.

The second prong lands east of Whiskey Road. It includes a Whiskey Road-Powderhouse Road connector, a project studied in the early 2000s, and a South Centennial Avenue connector.

The connectors form an undulating “Y” parallel to Powderhouse Road and southeast of South Aiken High School, according to drawings and mockups included in the presentation.

The dual connector idea was brought to City Council’s attention at a work session in February. No action was taken, and the meeting was seemingly a brainstorming get-together.

The third prong lands west of Whiskey Road. The prospective western improvements include a fully revamped Dougherty Road, traffic circles included; an East Gate Drive-Dougherty Road connector, which would run behind Publix; and a Pawnee Street-Neilson Street extension behind Walmart and Burger King.

The plans, at this point, are all “conceptual and can be altered,” according to City Council documents.

City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh described the Monday work session as strictly “informational,” described the road layouts as “conceptual” and described the overall design as “rough.”

“We’ve been working on these designs for awhile, these go back several years,” Bedenbaugh said Friday.

Nevertheless, the city has spoken with potentially affected property owners, Bedenbaugh said. That point is repeated in City Council documents.

In 2001, 2003 and 2017, various agencies studied Whiskey Road. In 2013, the Dougherty Road corridor was evaluated.

The overarching purpose of the potentially sprawling multi-million-dollar venture is to reduce congestion and improve travel on and around Whiskey Road.

Driver, cyclist and pedestrian safety, the presentation reads, is also a major concern around Whiskey Road, as is leveraging “economic development opportunities.”

The completed infrastructure work would reduce traffic congestion upward of 20 percent and would create direct access to 450 acres of undeveloped property, according to City Council documents.

Both the city and Aiken County are invested in the project.

City Council cannot formally vote during a work session.

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