Charleston City Council votes to support of I-526

Charleston City Council votes to support of I-526

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Council leaders voted to approve a resolution Tuesday night, supporting Charleston County in its efforts to complete the final phase of I-526.
During a public comment period, locals had an opportunity to speak out in favor, and in opposition, of the resolution.

"It will be the end of Johns Island," William Saunders, of Johns Island, said. "If it's built, it's going to completely destroy Johns Island."

 But those in favor say 526 would ease traffic congestion along Highway 17, support public transportation avenues as well as offer an evacuation options once extended to Johns Island and James Island.

"If we have such a catastrophic event, how do we get people off the island? Councilman Marvin Wagner, representative of District 5, said. "The two bridges that are part of 526 is the answer."
The approved resolution indicates the city would "join the request of Charleston County Council for the Bank Board to extend, until Dec. 31, 2016, the timeframe within which the County may explore and study sources of revenue to fund the shortfall in the project's budget."
The projected cost of the extension is approximately $725 to $750 million dollars. $420 million in financial assistance is on reserve with the State Infrastructure Bank, but Charleston County is on deadline to supply a funding plan for the balance.

Those in opposition of 526 extension said Tuesday's resolution offered little information on how that balance would be met.

"There's still the question of how to fund $350 million dollars, and there really aren't any answers," Natalie Olson, staff attorney for the Coastal Conservation League, said. "The city's resolution didn't have any level of specificity to fund the project or a plan moving forward. This isn't a good use of taxpayers so the next step should be to unwind the project and use the money for real needs."
Two council members, William Dudley Gregorie and Mike Seekings, also opposed the resolution.

Despite debate from the public on whether I-526 is a valuable investment, Mayor John Tecklenburg said the passed resolution indicates a sign of support to the State Infrastructure Bank.
"City Council supports the continuation of 526 and they made that crystal clear tonight," Tecklenburg said. "I don't like a toll either but...if this is an important project, which I believe it is, we have to step up to the plate and be willing to take responsibility in order to get it done and that's what I'm trying to do."
The meeting with county leaders and members of the Bank Board scheduled for Thursday has been postponed until early May.
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