Council votes to send I-526 project to SCDOT

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County Council voted Tuesday night to hand over the completion of the Interstate 526 project to the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

The State Infrastructure Bank decided that taking the extension project from the county would be the best way to extend the interstate to John's Island.

Officials said if the project is turned over to the state, the county will not have to pay back the $12 million borrowed from the state for the project.

"The county has never belonged in this project. We don't build interstates," Vice Chairman Elliott Summey said.

Summey said it's time to walk away from a project that has become a decades-long debate. He said it should've always been up to the DOT to decide if, and how, to complete I-526.

"I think everyone on this council has acknowledged that we're in between the devil and the deep blue sea, and this is the only life preserver we're going to get," Summey said.

But councilman Joseph Qualey disagreed.

"I think the things that affect local people should stay with local government," Qualey said.

He told the council he feels an obligation to keep the project.

"We were elected to make decisions... It's our project, and I just don't like the idea of not fulfilling our responsibility as we were elected to do," Gualey said.

Councilman Herbert Sass acknowledged that point, but said he feels, in the end, this is the best choice for the residents and the county.

"I hate giving this up, but we don't have an alternative," Sass said. "We're in between a rock and a hard place. We're asked to build a road we don't have faith in."

Those who voted to assign the project to the DOT said they did so because the council never unanimously decided on the "Alternative G" design option, and because this will save taxpayers money.

Those against it said it is not in the county's best interest to give away total control of this project.

The Department of Transportation will now have to formally accept the project. DOT officials will meet Jan. 19.

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