Originally created 02/08/98

Aiken deserves help 020898 - The Augusta Chronicle



South Carolina has vowed time and again -- starting back in the 1970s -- to extend Augusta's Bobby Jones Expressway into Aiken County. But it never happens, even though the extension is supposed to be a "top priority" for the state Highway Department. Lawmakers just won't fund it.

The latest effort to find funding involves the Aiken County legislative delegation putting together a four-member committee, headed by state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, to persuade the overseers of South Carolina's infrastructure bank to help out with the estimated $70 million project.

The Legislature set aside $65 million last year to establish the infrastructure bank to help pay bonds to build a bypass near Myrtle Beach. If the bank can help Myrtle Beach, why not Aiken County?

As county delegation chairman, state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, underscores, the Bobby Jones extension "is vital to the economic development of Aiken." It's also long overdue to be built. And Georgia is just putting the finishing touches on its portion of the expressway.

The Aiken County Council, at the urging of area legislators, has formally applied to the bank for the money. Now Ryberg and his lobbying team will swing into action. It won't be easy -- some observers believe it's a long shot at best -- to convince the overseers to go along. Three other counties are also seeking infrastructure bank help.

But however the lobbying effort turns out, it's heartening that even after 20 years Aiken County officials have't given up. They're still doing everything they can to make the Bobby Jones Extension a reality.