Committee defers granting money for state's portion to extend I-526

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - The State Capital Improvements Joint Bond Review Committee deferred granting funding for the State Infrastructure Bank’s $420 million portion to complete I-526.

During the meeting on Wednesday morning, the committee recommended that a subcommittee review the funding for the contract. They’d like to learn more about how Charleston County plans to fund its portion of the project.

In January, State bank board members voted 5-2 to supply $420 million to complete the interstate.

The Charleston County Council Chairman, Elliott Summey, says the county still plans to move forward with permitting for the project.

“We’re going to keep moving forward on the project," Summey said. "We spent $3 million dollars on the project last week and we continue to get bills from SCDOT and we’re going to continue paying them, we’re moving right along.”

Under an amended agreement, Charleston County will be responsible for the rest, believed to be about $305 million. The county also will be responsible to defend any lawsuits.

Summey says they’ve already explained how they are going to fund the project.

“Through any means necessary through Charleston County’s multiple resources we’ve got whether it’s the sales tax or property tax,” Summey said. “We’ve got AAA bond rating we’re one out of 46 counties in the country with such a high bond rating so we feel very confident.”

Director of Communities and Transportation for the Coastal Conservation League, Jason Crowley, opposes the project.

“Today was a good decision and good leadership by the chairman to create this extra source of scrutiny for this,” Crowley said. “The conversation league will always be fighting for the environmental priority and preservation of the sea islands. We also do stand as a mouth piece for the folks that thought they were voting for a specific list of projects that was taken away from them.”

Summey says they are using funds from the sales tax referendum that have not been already allocated.

“As far as I’m concerned we have a contract with the State Infrastructure Bank and we’re moving forward," Summey said.

State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board Member Chip Limehouse says the funding contract should have never went back to the Joint Bond Review Committee because the committee had already approved the project. He says he believes the project funds will still be approved. He says it’s rare that a subcommittee would be created to examine the project further.

Last June, the SIB voted to kill the extension project, convinced Charleston County didn’t have the funding secured to cover cost overruns for the project. Then last October,the SIB and the county reopened negotiations.

In February, Charleston County Council voted on using $3,156,640 from the transportation half-cent sales tax to fund the Mark Clark Expressway project for 2019.

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