It wasn't an ordinary meeting between our two-state area movers and shakers that was held at the Pinnacle Club last week. It was history in the making - at least, we hope, significant local history.
Co-hosted by two visionary organizations, North Augusta 2000 and, on the Augusta side of the river, the CSRA Community Foundation, the event marked the first 21st century strategic alliance, not only between Augusta and North Augusta, but also to include Edgefield County and the city of Aiken.
The focus will be on the region's transportation needs, specifically connecting road projects. The goal is that someday the Augusta-North Augusta-Aiken corridor will to travelers and tourists seem like one large seamless community. This would do wonders for economic development throughout the area.
To that end, the Pinnacle Club parley centered on three key transportation needs for the area: Federal, state and/or local funding to extend Georgia Avenue in North Augusta, the Bobby Jones extension on the South Carolina side of the river (to be renamed Palmetto Parkway) and a railroad relocation plan for Augusta.
These projects are not new, but due to the slow economy and lower-than-expected revenues at every level of government, they could all run into funding delays. The alliance is going to work to keep them on track as best they can - as well as look ahead to new projects.
Indeed, one such project receiving a big boost from the new alliance is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge that would link Riverwalk Augusta with North Augusta's Greeneway near the 13th Street bridge.
The pedestrian bridge has been discussed for many years, but now it appears on its way to becoming a reality. North Augusta 2000 paid to have the preliminary engineering design completed in time for the Pinnacle Club meeting.
The design calls for the bridge to have two, 200-foot high support towers; would be 14 feet wide, 1,300 feet long and 50 feet high.
And best of all, says Skip Grkovic, North Augusta economic and community development director, the bridge idea has gotten an encouraging response from federal funding sources. If the revenues do become available, says Grkovic, bridge construction would begin in July of next year and be completed by the end of the year.
We say, go for it - and that goes for the strategic alliance as well. Any effort to pull our two-state area communities together to look ahead and cooperate on vitally important economic development issues that benefit us all, gets our vote of confidence.
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