Originally created 03/03/98

Council supports highway



NORTH AUGUSTA -- North Augusta's city council passed a unanimous resolution of support Monday for Aiken County's attempt to get money to construct South Carolina's part of the Bobby Jones Expressway.

For nearly three decades, the South Carolina extension has been a topic of discussion and frustration for Aiken County residents, including many North Augusta officials. In recent times, however, there has been a glimmer of hope that work on the long-anticipated roadway would get under way around the turn of the century.

"It's been almost a year since the public hearing on Phase 1 of the extension, and we need to go on record in support of Aiken County's application for funding to get it started," Mayor Lark Jones said.

Aiken County is submitting an application to the state for money after missing a December deadline. Money may be available in 1999.

Dollars in South Carolina's infrastructure bank are derived from state surplus and the amount of money available can vary from year to year.

Phase 1 of the expressway extension, which provides for a bridge across the Savannah River, will be at least five years away even if construction begins in 1999, Mr. Jones said. The bright spot is that right-of-way acquisition has already begun.

Bobby Jones Expressway and its extension into South Carolina has been included in the Augusta Regional Transportation Study, known as ARTS, since 1970. It is designed to serve an expanding area including North Augusta and Clearwater in an arc from the U.S. Highway 1 business and industrial corridor to Belvedere, providing a link with U.S. Highway 25 and Interstate 20.

The infrastructure bank was created a year ago by the South Carolina General Assembly. Only $65 million was provided by the state during the bank's first year.

According to the county's application, the extension is estimated to cost more than $120 million. Of that, ARTS has allocated $750,000 for acquisition of right of way, and Georgia has promised $11 million. Aiken County is applying for $108 million for the remainder.