Johns Island drivers frustrated with traffic, many look to I-526 extension as solution

Mary Dowdy has lived on Johns Island more than 50 years.

Along with her husband Donald, Dowdy says she's watched traffic pile up like Lego pieces along Main Road, growing more severe by the day.  The couple resigned to stay home the last two days, amid massive backups from flooding that shut down access to parts of the Island.

"When we moved out here, Highway 17 didn't even have a traffic light on it," she said.

"It's just ridiculous.  The whole city is just about gridlocked."

Dowdy, joins a host of residents calling for the extension of I-526.  She attended a host of public meetings on the topic, and says the added route would've been especially helpful this week.

"Anybody who lives on Main Road would be in favor of that."

According to SCDOT Chairman Jim Rozier, the timeline for the project's completion is still unclear.  The state infrastructure bank set aside $556 million to fund the I-526 extension, but Rozier says the SIB nor Charleston County officials have come to terms on who would assume financial responsibility for lawsuits filed against the extension.

The Completion Project will extend I-526, which currently stretches over 19 miles from Mt. Pleasant to West Ashley, onto James Island. The project will include an interchange at Folly Road and an extra seven to eight miles of interstate in order for I-526 to connect from Savannah Highway.

"The longer we hold up, the more the price of this project is going up," Rozier said.

A Charleston County spokesperson added contractual negotiations continue with the SIB concerning the InterGovernmental Agreement.  He also said the final price of the extension project would depend on market conditions at the time of procurement.

Resident Helen Gipe called the traffic backup along Main Road a "safety issue."  She feared worse consequences for many on the Island, if there were a hurricane evacuation underway.

"The past few days we felt trapped," she said.

"I'm sure it would cut this traffic in half, maybe more than that.  I would love to see it built."

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