I-526 expansion hits road block, could face legal issues

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Interstate 526 expansion plans may have come to the end of the road. The Charleston County Council voted not to support plans to extend the roadway from West Ashley through Johns Island and eventually into James Island.

Hundreds of people showed up at Thursday's county council meeting opposing the Mark Clark expansion and they got their wish. But it could be at a cost.

Council member Elliott Summey says the "no build" vote may turn around and bite the committee because of a contract the county signed with the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Infrastructure Bank in 2007.

"In our attorney's opinion that puts us in a bad legal position in which financially we may have to reimburse the state for all the money that's been spent," says Summey. "That's about $12 million."

But council member Dickie Schweers, who sided with the majority of the public, says he is willing to take the monetary risk.

"Yeah, we're at some financial risk however if we simply hand this over to the state we are at great risk a road will be built," Schweers said.

Summey says that may happen even after the council decided not to put the decision in the state's hands and axe the plan themselves. Summey says the council didn't have the authority to make the decision on the future of the expansion under the guidelines of the 2007 contract.

The councilman anticipates a lot of repercussions with the way the vote turned out Thursday.

"Unfortunately for the folks of Johns Island it's not over," Summey said. "Our contract says the state can continue on with the project without us so we really weakened our position."

The Charleston County Council will vote to finalize the decision at its next meeting on Tuesday.

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