State Infrastructure Bank decision could delay next phase of I-526 extension

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - The State Infrastructure Bank Board ordered its attorneys to negotiate with county and state agency attorneys to work out questions about the I-526 extension, a directive likely to delay the next phase of the project.

The board voted to direct its attorneys to negotiate with attorneys from Charleston County and the state Department of Transportation to determine who will be responsible for permitting challenges and lawsuits as well as when the remaining two phases of the project will begin.

The first phase would run from West Ashley to Johns Island and the second phase would continue from Johns Island to James Island. Supporters say it will cut down on commuting times and help with hurricane evacuation, while opponents say extending I-526 will harm the rural character of the islands.

The board spent nearly 45 minutes in executive session then made the announcement, and gave attorneys up to 120 days to work out the details.

Charleston County leaders, including Council Chairman Elliott Summey, attended the meeting and expected an agreement on the contract to be announced.

The $558 million project has been expected to begin as early as 2018. It is not clear how big an impact today's vote could have on any potential start date.

The longer the project goes without resuming, Summey said, the greater the chance it will die in attrition, meaning it would become too expensive to continue.

But Summey remains hopeful agreements will be reached.

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