Mayor on I-526 project: 'Community needs it and community wants it'

City to ask for I-526 project

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Mayor Joe Riley told Charleston County Council on Tuesday evening that the completion of I-526 is vital because of the growing communities in Charleston.

"Bottom line, the community needs it and the community wants it," Mayor Riley told council members during the latest county council meeting on the 526 project.

If the decision whether or not to complete I-526 wasn't hard enough before, Council discussed a new angle Tuesday evening and that was turning the project over to Charleston City Council.

"This decision will be the biggest on I've had to make while on council," said chairman Teddie Pryor.

Mayor Riley said the city would enter into a partnership with the county to complete I-526. Riley said that the 526 completion is a need since government needs to expand the community because Charleston is growing.

Newly re-elected Speaker of the SC House Bobby Harrell was unable to attend the meeting, but sent a letter advocating for the county to turn the project over to the City of Charleston.

Robin Welsh with Nix 526 presented council members with a presentation called the "Build Better Compromise." Welsh also talked about how families would be affected by the completion of the project.

Councilman Henry Darby said he was very much against the 526 project in the beginning "because of misinformation." Darby said he is searching for the truth and wants to sit down with both groups to find out "what is real and what isn't."

On December 13, County Council will vote on whether or not to turn over the expressway expansion to Mayor Joe Riley and the city. Pryor said he's giving his council members a week to digest the long conversation they are bound to have on the subject Tuesday within council chambers.

Council member Herb Sass, who is still undecided how he will vote after hearing Mayor Riley's request, was scheduling meetings and getting information on the project until late Friday afternoon.

Sass said their are a lot of layers to the 526 extension and he wants to make sure he knows exactly what he's voting for.

But when a vote comes around, Pryor says it will be interesting to see how his council sides.

As of last week, he said three members were for turning the project over to the city, three were against the idea and three were still undecided.

Pryor says the time is now to make a decision. Although the State Infrastructure Bank did not set a deadline for the use of the almost $600 million set aside for the project, Pryor is worried if the decision isn't made soon the money will be requested to fund other projects around the state.

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