County leaders must decide how to proceed with I-526 completion

County leaders must decide how to proceed with I-526 completion

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The I-526 completion project is now in the hands of Charleston County Council members, after the State Department of Transportation decided not to sponsor the project.

"Really don't have much to say other than they I guess made an informed decision and I guess they thought it wasn't in their best interest to take over the project," County Council Chairman Teddy Pryor said.  "We have two options, either pay back the $11.6 million that was already spent on right of way acquisition, design work, and design fees, or complete the project, which we have the funds to do it."

The project would extend from West Ashley to Johns and James Islands. Some county leaders say this is not the right thing to do for the county or the state.

Councilmember Dickie Schweers says, "The DOT's lack of support should be indication of the lack of the merits of the project on a statewide level."

County leaders say $558 million of state money has been secured to finish I-526. State House Speaker Bobby Harrell is from Charleston, but says the interstate has a statewide impact.

"It is a project that ought to be done the same way that the Ravenel Bridge ought to be done. It is appropriate to use, you ought to use state money to fund interstate highways," Harrell said.

Chairman Pryor says the next step is for county leaders to make a decision on completing the interstate or not. He says one thing he does not want to see happen is for the county to lose the half a billion dollars it has secured from the State Infrastructure Bank and for taxpayers to have to pay back what the county has spent already, $11.6 million, on the project.

County leaders say the I-526 project can still be completed even though the DOT will not sponsor it. They say they would have to find a private engineering firm to work on the highway.

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