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DOT head says public opinion of 526 project mostly negative

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County will have to come up with almost an additional $70 million to complete the controversial Interstate 526 extension project. 

Buck Limehouse, the head of the state Department of Transportation, went before the State Infrastructure Bank in Myrtle Beach Thursday, to report on the status of the proposed project. 

The DOT has just completed a series of public hearings in Charleston County, where Limehouse said about 1,000 people appeared. He estimated that about 90 percent of the people at three of the events were opposed to the project. 

Limehouse was responsible for expanding the number of public hearings and scheduling them in outlying areas. The public still has a chance to comment. The DOT is taking input from the public through Sept. 30.

Limehouse said the DOT will compile a summary of the public comment and present it to Charleston County Council. Since the Mark Clark completion  is a county project, it will be up to county council to decide the fate of the parkway. 

Limehouse says it appears the council has three options. It can come up with the additional funds needed for the project, reduce the scope or decide not to proceed with the plans. 

The Infrastructure Bank has set aside $420 million dollars for the project. But Thursday's new estimates show it will take about $489 million.

If the county decides against using the funding for the Mark Clark completion, there is no guarantee the funds will stay in the Lowcountry. For example, a secondary use of the funds could go to resolving expected traffic woes in the area of the new Boeing plant. 

Charleston County councilwoman Colleen Condon said she expects the council to vote on the Mark Clark project sometime in October.

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