I-526 cost rises as project stalls

CHARLESTON, SC – A recent estimate by the South Carolina Department of Transportation puts the tab of the interstate 526 completion project at $720 million, says state representative Chip Limehouse.

The projects has 526 begin where it ends now at Highway 17 in West Ashley then cut across the northern section of Johns Island and James Island and meet with Folly Road at the James Island connector. The project was last estimated at $558 million in 2012.

Limehouse, who also sits on the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board, said delays are not friends of big construction projects. “It’s time to get started on 526 if we ever want to build it,” said Limehouse over the phone Wednesday, “we can kid ourselves and ignore that the growth isn’t going to happen.”

The project has been in limbo while officials debate over whether the Infrastructure Bank or Charleston County is liable for legal fees of homeowners in the path of the proposed highway extension. The Bank Board has said it will grant $420 million to the 526 project. “If I was on county council, I probably would be a little bit leary of being sued,” said Limehouse, “but the fact of the matter is no one is going to give you $420 million dollars and retain the legal liability.”

Charleston County said they are ready to build out the rest of 526 and that the Infrastructure Bank has should cover the potential legal risk.

“I don’t think the road or whatever version of it is ever going to be built because the biggest problem is money,” said Rich Thomas who lives on John Island. Thomas is a member of ‘Nix 526’ – a group opposed to the project. “The money just isn’t going to be there.”

The South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board is set to have its next meeting in October.

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