This article was originally posted on January 23, 2015
Lexington is booming. lt has been for years. It wasn’t that long ago when there was open space between Columbia and downtown Lexington. No more. The two are now connected by strip malls, car dealerships, banks, fast food joints, grocery stores, mattress shops and other commercial enterprises.
The result is economic development that is both a blessing and a curse.
Sunset Boulevard – Highway 378 – is probably the most congested strip south of Harbison Boulevard. Rush hour and lunchtime turn the nearly 5 miles between I-20 and North Lake into a parking lot. An angry, frustrating, time consuming, fender-bending, cuss-inducing parking lot. Still, we love all the shopping and dining opportunities available.
Augusta Rd. – Highway 1 – is clogging traffic as well. With on and off ramps to the soon to be widened I-20, a major artery into downtown Columbia and proximity to an expanding South Lake Drive, Augusta Rd/Rte 1 is it’s own nightmare.
Morning traffic from Lexington proper east to I-20 or, further to Columbia is like a slow moving mob, only to be replicated in the afternoon rush hour as those same vehicles reverse direction to head home from work. That PM traffic is exacerbated by The Great Bottleneck just before crossing Twelve Mile Creek. For the next painful mile, Rte 1 is squeezed from four lanes into two, often backing vehicles up eastward for another mile and a half.
Congestion on Rte.1 isn’t limited to work day backups. Weekend traffic on Augusta rivals rush hour Sunset because of the two large flea markets east of I-20.
Do we need more? Driving into downtown Lexington is like entering an amusement park through the gift shop. One has to navigate through traffic congestion and past strip malls to get downtown. Is Lexington a town or a bazaar? Can we not have just one entry into town that is attractive?
There is little sense of residency in Lexington. Neighborhoods close to the center of town are being intruded upon by gas stations, fried chicken joints and grocery stores. As these businesses move in on neighborhoods, light/sound pollution and crime come with them. Property values drop and residents ultimately leave for quieter, safer places to live. What were once nice neighborhoods become, well, less than nice and the city begins to deteriorate from within.
Of course, telling someone what they can and cannot do with their property isn’t popular in a democracy. There are zoning laws and as long as an owner is within the ordinances, (s)he is free to develop the property as they wish.
Still, can’t Lexington town officials and citizens come up with a plan to make the municipality as attractive as it deserves? A lot of resources are being expended for Project Icehouse, “a destination retail center and public green space which will include boutique retail, eateries along with plans to construct an amphitheatre.” It is hoped that Project Icehouse will “help revitalize Lexington in addition to allowing for connectivity in the downtown area.”
It’s nice to have a shiny hub, but why must the spokes be crappy?