Portions of I-526 are finally being resurfaced, here’s how much it costs

I-526 is getting some much-needed repairs, but they don’t come without a multimillion-dollar price tag.
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 12, 2023 at 10:55 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - I-526 is getting some much-needed repairs, but they don’t come without a multimillion-dollar price tag.

A contract awarded by the South Carolina Department of Transportation to the Banks Construction company last fall obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request reveals the total cost of the project is $10.347 million.

The document shows that 7.96 miles will be resurfaced on the 23-mile highway. 5.9 miles from Savannah Highway to International Boulevard and 2.06 miles from Long Point Road to North Highway 17. Some portions have already been completed as construction began last month.

Broken down, the construction costs $1.3 million per mile.

“It was long overdue,” driver Marlin Reid said.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation has identified I-526 as one of the most congested highways in the South Carolina.

The department calls it a top priority because of its current and projected use.

Issues with the roadway are nothing new for Lowcountry drivers.

“Horrific” is how Gwendolyn Doctor, a West Ashley native, describes it.

“Lots of potholes. I run over them all the time. I’ve had busted tires. Traffic is horrible,” she said.

Reid, another native of the area, agrees.

“Lack of care, lack of paying attention, there are so many divots and potholes. How many tire blowouts have you had on that road because of the conditions?” Reid said. “We’re so far behind other states it’s not even funny.”

Erin Miller recently moved from New York to South Carolina via car. When asked about the condition of the roadways she rated them 4/10 compared to her home state.

“I thought they were a little rough,” Miller said.

The issues aren’t just anecdotal either.

The highway was the subject of more than half of all claims paid out by the agency last year in Charleston County.

The department paid out $18,255 in 2022 for 33 claims because of I-526.

In total, SCDOT paid drivers $37,713.97 for 63 claims in the same area during that time period.

Another six drivers that filed for damages they reported were caused by I-526 were also denied last year.

Earlier this year Kelly Moore, SCDOT director of public engagement, stated the agency was “aware of deferred maintenance” and has been working to catch up as part of a 10-year plan that began seven years ago.

SCDOT put 50% of the new funding the department received from the 12-cent gas tax aside for resurfacing South Carolina roadways, 80% of which needed some TLC.

Meaning drivers already paid the$10.3 million at the pump to fund the resurfacing for I-526.

The improvements don’t just stop at the “surface-level” either.

Multiple studies are currently underway to help figure out a plan to alleviate the congestion that continues to plague the highway including the interchange between I-26 and I-526.

“That’s a death trap,” Reid said.

As for the cost, drivers aren’t too worried as long as they don’t have to put up their own cash for damage caused by the roads.

“That’s a great thing. I can save my tires,” Doctor said.

The entire resurfacing project is expected to be finished before the fall, according to the contract.

So far, $2.5 billion from the new state gas tax has funded more than 7,000 miles of South Carolina pavement projects Moore said.

SCDOT reports it is on track to meet its goals to resurface roadways. In May 2023, SCDOT...
SCDOT reports it is on track to meet its goals to resurface roadways. In May 2023, SCDOT reported that 81% of interstates are considered "good" according to national standards for pavement, up from 65% in 2016.(SCDOT)

Though there are more miles to go, SCDOT reports it’s on track to meet its goals.