The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) announced just before Thanksgiving that the expected completion date of the S.C. Highway 118/Hitchcock Parkway in Aiken has once again been delayed — the fourth time that has occurred since the project got under way in 2021.
According to the state agency's Robbie Isgett and Adam Humphries, each of whom provided updates on the work to Aiken County legislative members Nov. 20, the "majority of the work" will be completed by the end of 2023, the Aiken Standard reported.
But Isgett added, "There will be some work as paving season becomes available next spring at the Dibble Road end of the project," and a planted buffer also would be installed in one area in time for the 2024 flower planting season.
Humphries said SCDOT expects to have work on the Hitchcock Parkway, between Silver Bluff and Dibble roads, finished in the next month after state Sen. Tom Young Jr., R-Aiken, asked for details of the plans.
"And then we'll finish the work on Dibble itself and finish up that paving between December and the spring," Humphries continued.
The $12 million project includes resurfacing the parkway from Silver Bluff Road to the Jefferson Davis Highway. Crews have been adding a new layer of asphalt atop the old layers along that stretch of the roadway. In addition, a shared-use path also is being built to allow use by cyclists, walkers, skaters and people in wheelchairs.
SCDOT also is supervising improvements to five intersections along the Hitchcock Parkway corridor: S.C. 421/Augusta Road, Dibble Road, Huntsman Drive, Hickory Ridge Road/Oriole Street and Silver Bluff Road/Pine Log Road. The project also includes drainage upgrades and plans for wider shoulders.
Hitchcock Parkway, named after the nearby Hitchcock Woods, is part of a bypass around downtown Aiken. The 4.8-mi. road connects Silver Bluff Road and East Pine Log Road to the Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Route 1/78) west of the city.
Several Issues Led to Four Project Slowdowns
When the Hitchcock Parkway overhaul was announced in 2021, the expected completion date was the end of 2022, but when it became evident last November that that goal would not be met, SCDOT postponed the completion to April 1, 2023, before pushing it a third time to late August.
Once that finish date looked unlikely, SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said she expected the project to be wrapped up by the end of 2023, the Aiken news source noted Nov. 21.
The newspaper cited two reasons given by the state agency for the delays: utility relocations and problems with a contractor that had to be removed from the job.
SCDOT experienced utility relocation issues near Silver Bluff Road and two issues on Oriole Street when it closed that avenue earlier this year, Humphries told Aiken County officials.
Kelly Moore, public information director for the SCDOT, said last May the delays also were caused by an underperforming drainage contractor that was later released from the job in accordance with federal requirements.
Leland Colvin, deputy state transportation secretary for engineering, told Young in February that the issue resulted in a 130-day delay for the project.
As construction work moved forward on the project, crews from Reeves Construction, based in Duncan, S.C., found an AT&T utility line that had not been relocated in the Dibble Road area, Young said.
And before SCDOT began constructing a wall on Dibble Road near Cold Creek Nursery, one of its subcontractors spotted another utility line that should have been moved before digging commenced, noted Humphries.
The rest of the project is now moving along smoothly, he said, but the transportation department "lost a little bit of extra time on the construction of that wall on Dibble [Road]."
Young said he and state Rep. Bart Blackwell, R-Aiken, would ask SCDOT to get the work done in time for the Aiken Triple Crown, a series of footraces held in early March; and The Masters golf tournament in nearby Augusta, Ga., set to tee off during the last week of March.
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