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State Infrastructure Board delays I-526 decision after request from governor

SIB will discuss possible funding Monday (.Source: Live 5) SIB will discuss possible funding Monday (.Source: Live 5)
CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

Despite a vote by the State Infrastructure Board to delay any decisions on the completion of I-526, representatives from Charleston County and the city of Charleston remain optimistic.

Several people expected the project to be voted down, but the board voted to delay action after its chairman received a letter from Gov. Henry McMaster, who requested no action be taken because of "different understandings" of Charleston County's financial commitment to the project and the requirements of the infrastructure bank.

“He sent a letter asking us to, basically, sort it out," SIB board member Chip Limehouse said. "Fix it, sort it out. He also called for transparency.” 

After an executive session, the chairman said action on the project would be delayed until June 25, adding the board would work with the county to come to a "mutual understanding."

Despite the delay, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg are hopeful.

“What I heard today was a willingness from the chair of the SIB board and the chair of Charleston County to earnestly try to resolve the differences that exist in their contract and move this project forward,” he said. The differences Tecklenburg was talking about have to do with the details of how the I-526 extension project would be financed. Completing the project would cost about $725 million. The State Infrastructure Bank board committed about $420 million but that was with the understanding that Charleston County would be responsible for the rest of the cost. 

Charleston County sent a new proposal to the board earlier this year in an effort to get the board to help negotiate the project.

The push to finish I-526 was thought to be dead after Charleston County missed a crucial funding deadline. That caused the State Bank to pull out of the deal.

But last week County Transportation leaders met to discuss finishing the project.

“The refreshing thing that they indicated to us is that they would enter negotiation, hopefully, to amend the contract and move forward, which is the position that we’ve been in for quite some time,” Charleston County Council Chairman Vic Rawl said. 

Rawl said the county has already come up with a way to pay that money but the board hasn’t moved forward because they haven’t been happy with the county's plans.

The board reviewed Charleston County’s Mark Clark Financial Plan at the meeting. That was the county’s response to the board to show how the county could pay for its obligations. The board and the county decided to make that financial plan available to the public. 

Monday's delay was the latest in a long line of roadblocks for the years-long effort to extend I-526 from its current terminus at Savannah Highway across to Johns and James Island. Despite Monday's developments, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and several representatives from Charleston County said they remain hopeful for the future of the project.

The board's agenda stated the board would take some kind of action related to the project on something about the project at Monday's meeting.

Charleston County sent a new proposal to the board earlier this year in an effort to get the board to help negotiate the project.

But last week County Transportation leaders met to discuss finishing the project.

The county says it has found $320 million it says could be used to finish the deal.

Back in 2006, the estimated cost to fund the project was $425 million. Now it sits at $725 million.

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