SCDOT moves forward with I-526 plans

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - State transportation officials are moving forward with work needed to complete I-526 following a last-minute motion Tuesday at the Joint Bond Review Committee hearing to approve preliminary funding.

South Carolina Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said the project team has been told to resume work on hardship right-of-way acquisition cases and other preliminary activities to get the project ready for construction.

“These preliminary activities are expected to take approximately 18 months and include updating the traffic and environmental studies,” Hall said in a statement.

Once those studies are updated, SCDOT will hold another public hearing on the project in the fall of 2020 to give the public the chance to comment on the updated project. After that public hearing, SCDOT will begin issuing permits for the project through regulatory agencies in order to prepare for construction to actually begin.

Earlier on Tuesday, state senators approved funding at a meeting in Columbia.

State Sen. Leon Stavrinakis said they will move forward with permitting steps which will include more public hearings as well as new road and traffic studies.

Stavrinakis said a lot of these steps had previously been completed, but because of the delays some of those steps need to be redone and the rest need to be finished.

State Sen. Thomas Alexander introduced a motion which was seconded for the State Infrastructure Bank to approve $12 million in funding, which Charleston County will match for a total of $24 million.

“I know that, other than Sen. (Paul) Campbell and I, this project is not in any of your backyards like it is for us,” Stavrinakis said. “It’s kind of a weighty lift, but we are very grateful and excited for all your hard work and we appreciate all your input and contributions to get this moving again.”

I-526 wasn’t initially on the agenda until Alexander added it in the middle of the meeting.

“We’ve got a congestion issue we need to solve and this project will solve it,” Campbell added.

The approval came less than 24 hours after the Coastal Conservation League filed a lawsuitto try to stop the county from using the 2016 half-cent sales tax to fund the project.

According to a 2018 report,the county has already spent $40 million on the project.

Under the current terms of the contract which are still being worked out. The total cost of the project is $720 million with the State Infrastructure Bank paying for $420 million and Charleston County paying the remaining $300 million.

Stavrinakis said once the project meets requirements established by the law, they can then put bids out for the project and start building.

There’s no word on how long the preliminary work will take or if more money will be needed from the SIB or county to pay for it.

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