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Opponent of I-526 extension says delay proves project should be shelved

Photo Source: AP/Live 5 News Photo Source: AP/Live 5 News
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A group opposing the extension of I-526 across James and Johns islands says continued delays prove the project should be put on the shelf.

On Monday, the State Infrastructure Bank Board was scheduled to discuss behind closed doors a three-way contract between the bank, Charleston County and the State Department of Transportation, according to DOT Commission Chairman Jim Rozier.

However, one of the board members, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, had to leave, so that discussion did not happen, Rozier said.

Natalie Olson with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League says the more than $500 million price tag is too high, will not cut down on driving times and will damage natural habitats. 

Olson says officials instead should concentrate on fixing I-26.

"A project that costs half a billion dollars to extend eight miles of highway onto Johns Island which is rural area is not something that needs to happen. The longer this project doesn't happen, the more expensive that it becomes," Olson said.

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey disagrees, and says I-526 needs to be extended to alleviate traffic and evacuate residents during a the threat of a hurricane.

"My grandfather voted to build the Citadel inter belt loop which is the Mark Clark and it's my intention to finish it," Summey said.

The Coastal Conservation League in the past has not ruled out filing a lawsuit to stop the project. Olson says it's too early in the process to take legal action.

"People mispronounce my name all the time and call me Sue me, so maybe that's just pretty accurate," Summey said.

Both Rozier and Summey say they expect the discussion of the I-526 contract to happen at the board's next meeting, which is scheduled for May 18.

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