CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - In a unanimous vote Wednesday, South Carolina Department of Transportation commissioners voted not to take up the I-526 completion project in Charleston County.
After hearing pleas from Mayor Joe Riley and other Charleston County leaders, the commission voted 7-0 to keep the project in the hands of Charleston County.
Now, Charleston County Council will have to either assume control and responsibility for its construction or return $12 million to the State Infrastructure Bank.
The decision came after commissioners heard from some Charleston County leaders, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who pleaded with the commission to take up the project.
Riley compared finishing I-526 to having to finish a coronary bypass operation, saying that failing to finish the Mark Clark Expressway would cause a figurative "heart attack" for the area.
Riley said he expects traffic to eventually be worse than before the James Island Connector was constructed, adding that by year 2030, motorists "won't be able to move" on Savannah Highway, the portion of Highway 17 which runs through West Ashley.
The mayor also said if the road is not completed, he foresees a life-threatening situation for people trying to evacuate the area in the event of a hurricane.
Representatives from elsewhere in the state also made their case. One representative said DOT shouldn't take up the project because other counties would be shortchanged by the decision.