Charleston County Council holds public hearing on I-526 project funding

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The I-526 Completion Project discussion continues.

Tuesday night the public had the opportunity to tell Charleston County Council what they think about it and how it should be funded.

This comes after the council created an ordinance that would commit the county to come up with about $330 million dollars needed for the project.

It's a debate that's been ongoing for years, whether or not to complete I-526 that would connect James and John's Islands.

West Ashley resident Bart King supports the project.

"It's a vital piece of infrastructure for our area," King said.

Mount Pleasant resident George Freeman opposes it.

"It's really going to be a waste of money as far as I'm concerned," Freeman said.

The estimated price tag is about $750 million dollars. The State Infrastructure Bank Board has agreed to provide $420 million only if the county can come up with the the remaining funds totaling at about $330 million.

Chairman of the Charleston County Council, Victor Rawl says it might be the only way to improve West Ashley traffic on highway 17A South.

"It's been on the books since Methuselah was a baby and it needs to be completed," Rawl said.

Rawl says the current funding ordinance if passed will be a commitment from the county to fund the shortfall.

The big question from residents is where is the money going to come from.

"You will find out when the project is begun and when money is being paid and when the project will be completed and probably not until then," Rawl said.

The county will not have to provide all the project funds up front before construction begins.

King say it's necessary to alleviate congestion.

"Everyday I face the gridlock coming from Johns Island traffic and James Island traffic, everybody trying to get home to the Sea Islands using our arteries to get there," King said.

Freeman feels if completed it would have the opposite effect.

"From what I've seen in my years in travel with these beltways around cities, they do not work the more you create roads like that then developers feel like they can build more houses and the traffic builds right back up on the highway," Freeman said.

While at times it seemed like the project was dead, it's still alive.

"This time we are trying to show good faith to complete the project," Rawl said.

No decisions were made Tuesday in regards to if the county will fund the completion of I-526.  That decision is expected to happen in a Special County Council meeting on Thursday.

Earlier this month members of the Charleston Area Transportation Study committee agreed to commit funding to the project, they have not set an amount.

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