Charleston County, state at odds over Interstate 526

Thursday, the State Bank met and revised a resolution forcing Charleston County to come up with the money for the Interstate 526 road project.

The bank said in December that Charleston County must come up with a plan to pay more than $300 Million for the project by March 30th.

The vote Thursday took out the word “binding” from two places in the resolution, but the state bank lawyer said the change doesn’t change the deadlines and the nearly impossible task set to Charleston County Council.

Representative Chip Limehouse called the move an “olive branch” after the state bank passed the resolution in December.

If the county misses the deadline at the end of this month, the project would likely be dead and $420 Million earmarked for it will go back into the pot for other project applications.

The project is expected to cost $725 million.

Charleston County Council Chair Elliot Summey released this statement about the project.

“Today’s meeting of the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) did nothing to address the transportation concerns of Charleston County citizens. We continue to be forced to come up with an egregious sum of money in a short amount of time to fund the I-526 completion project. The request of Charleston County to impose a tax increase on our citizens without providing them the opportunity to vote is not only unconstitutional but an example of the poor management that has consumed our state capitol for far too long. My issues with the SIB Board are shared by others as evidenced by the S.C. Senate vote on Wednesday to reform the panel and place it under the direction of the South Carolina Department of Transportation Commissioners. This measure would take the politics out of infrastructure funding and provide Governor Nikki Haley with the authority to do what is right as she’s done on countless occasions.

Furthermore, I don’t appreciate how Charleston County was portrayed by certain members of the SIB Board. Our citizens passed a half-cent sales tax in 2004 to help pay for improvements around the county including $75 million for the Arthur Ravenel Bridge Jr., a state project. Charleston County Government also helps resurface miles and miles of state roads, using our tax dollars. In my opinion, Charleston County has already put plenty of “skin in the game” and it doesn’t appear the SIB will hold up its end of the bargain.

Finally, let’s all understand where we are on the I-526 completion project, which has continued to move forward since 2007. Projects of this size take an average of eight years in just pre-construction work. We’ve handled our fair share of delays but we remain close to on-schedule and we expect to hit major milestones later this year to solidify this project.”


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