Charleston County Council approves new plan to finish I-526

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Council approved a new plan to finish the I-526 project after the State Infrastructure Bank Board approved the county’s latest plan to fund the project.

The SIB agreed to pay $420 million of the $750 million total cost to complete the project.

That means Charleston County would pay about $305 million.

County staff says funding will come from the transportation sales tax and other funding sources. Council said other projects will not be in jeopardy of not being finished.

The extension project would build an eight-mile stretch between James Island and Johns Island.

Supporters of the project say the extension will likely improve traffic in the area.

“It will give them another road to get off when it’s emergencies, hurricanes--and I think it’s going to help with traffic,” Charleston County Council Member Anna Johnson said.

County Council’s discussion comes several months after the SIB Board voted to kill the extension project.

At the time, board members said Charleston County did not have the funds it needed to finish the project.

After that decision, County Council considered taking legal action against the SIB for pulling out of the project, but voted to postpone that action because of a request from Gov. Henry McMaster.

The SIB and the county voted to reenter negotiations in October.

“We’re going to be able to have the opportunity for future public transit on this stretch of road along with a bike or pedestrian facility or pathway,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said.

One council member questioned where we’re going to get the funding for the project.

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said the money will come from a lot of areas, including funds from the half-cent sales tax and even outside sources.

“We’re going to go after more money from outside of South Carolina to help pay for a road that will be used by a lot of people that aren’t from South Carolina," Summey said.

The Coastal Conservation League has been against the project for a while now.

"The I-526 extension threatens to rob county residents of real solutions to address urgent problems like flooding and traffic,” a spokesperson from the Coastal Conservation League said in an email statement.

The statement also said the group is going to do what it can to stop the project, which might include legal action.

But Summey says the project should improve people’s quality of life.

“We have to do the right thing," Summey said. "Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy, and I know the naysayers won’t be happy. But this is a good day for all of us.”

Council members told me tonight that this is just the beginning of the end for this project.

The permitting process for the project starts now, which could take a few years. After that, it could take three to four years for construction to finish.

Charleston County Council approves new plan to finish I-526

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