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Money given to North Charleston communities from Port Access Road Project

The multi-million dollar Port Access Road Project is past the halfway mark. (Source: Live 5) The multi-million dollar Port Access Road Project is past the halfway mark. (Source: Live 5)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

As a multi-million dollar project continues in North Charleston, one organization is working to make sure the communities are not negatively impacted.

The Port Access Road Project reached its halfway point in construction a couple of weeks ago. But before the project even started, a group of community activists made sure the community would also benefit.

A group called the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities got involved when the Ports Authority put in their initial environmental impact statement.

"The group reviewed that statement and realized they had the ability to mitigate the adverse impact the port could potentially have on the community," Omar Muhammad, LAMC's Executive Director, said. "They put together a package which they submitted to the Ports Authority and they were awarded a mitigation through that process."

Muhammad said the group received a little more than $4,000,000 for the communities impacted. Those are Accabee, Five Mile, Chicora/Cherokee, Union Heights, Windsor Place, Howard Heights and Liberty Hill.

Initially, the organization bought a building so they could operate out of. Then they established an affordable housing fund with $860,000.

"Currently, through those funds, we were able to secure about 50 pieces of property in the community next year," Muhammad said. "We are looking to develop those communities next year, so there will be more affordable housing."

The organization dedicated $250,000 toward education scholarships. The LAMC will be giving out another round of scholarships and internships. Click here for more information.

A total of $600,000 was put in a workforce development fund, which will be deployed in the next few months. The organization is working with the Coastal Community Foundation to help adults and kids who are eligible to attend a workforce development program.

On the environmental side, $100,000 was awarded to the Charleston Community Research to Action Board. They are working with MUSC, the University of South Carolina and the University of Maryland on an "air monitoring network program." They are looking at how the air quality in areas are impacted by all of the increases in trucks and ships that will be in the area because of the access road.

Over the summer, there were nine students who participated in a workforce development program that LAMC partnered with Benedict College on.

"They were able to go through that program and learn about careers in transportation," Muhammad said.

One of the students who participated is Joshua Jakes.

"I learned a lot," Jakes said. "My favorite part probably was going on the construction sites."

Jakes lives in one of the areas potentially impacted by the Port Access Road, a reason he qualified for the internship. Jakes said the experience was beyond what he was expecting.

"It's more than you would think," Jakes said. "I thought it would be just a lot of easy stuff. It's a lot, though; the actual process takes a while."

Jakes will start at Benedict College in the next couple of days and says the internship definitely prepared him.

"This helped a lot with the classes I think," Jakes said. "I learned a lot so I think I'm going to be ahead of some students."

Jakes said, because of his internship, he is likely going to pursue a career in civil engineering.

"It is really an honor to be able to do this work and help people realize they're dream, protect communities and make sure that their voices are heard," Muhammad added.

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