State Supreme Court puts another bump in the road to completing I-526

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Supreme Court said they will not look at a lawsuit from Charleston County about the I-526 completion project until it goes through a lower court first.

The County filed the suit against the State Infrastructure Bank over funds for I-526. The supreme court's denial leaves the question: What happens to the Mark Clark Expressway now?

"The longer this get delayed out the more it's going to cost, the more expensive it's going to be," Charleston County Council Vice Chairman, Herb Sass, said.

Sass said this has been a frustrating process to try and get this extension to James and Johns Island done, but it's a project, he said, the community needs.

"I think the traffic needs, especially in West Ashley, are getting more and more congested," he said. Sass added there are some people who oppose the extension, but a majority of Charleston County would like to see the project finished.

Sass said the contract got signed in 2007. Officials did an environmental impact study and proposed 39 alternatives to build I-526, with seven favorites. Ultimately, the final alternative was chosen in 2011. County Council voted in 2012 to go ahead and build I-526.

"That was after the infrastructure bank had agreed to pay us more money to get the road built, which would have included having an overpass, a flyover on Folly Road rather than an intersection at Folly Road," Sass said. "We were promised at that point in time $558 million. We had the $420 million that was in the contract and we were promised another $138 million by the State Infrastructure Bank in a unanimous vote. And then that money mysteriously hasn't appeared. They're holding us still at $420 million."

At this point, after multiple delays, Sass said they would be happy to settle with them.

"We spent the last two years meeting with them, trying to get this thing worked out," he said. "And we thought several times we had a path forward. But each time we'd get to the meeting in Columbia, we'd get there the path forward that we had already discussed was not there."

Sass said they're just ready to keep the project moving. It's not at a standstill – yet. About $40 million has already been invested, half of that for the right-of-way acquisitions, the other half is for the permitting.

Sass said their main goal right now is to talk with the state infrastructure bank to see if they can work something out to kickstart the project moving forward again.

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