I-526 funding In jeopardy

I-526 funding In jeopardy
August 10 23:16 2016 Print This Article

Charleston County Council recently passed a measure to put a 0.5% sales tax increase referendum on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election.  The tax increase is projected to generate $2.1 Billion in revenue for road, mass transit and land purchase projects over 25 years.  The measure passed by a 6-3 margin, with Democrats Henry Darby, Anna Johnson and Vic Rawle voting in opposition.

Conspicuously missing from the project list was local match funding for the completion of I-526, which would connect West Ashley with Johns Island and James Island.  The I-526 project received a $420 Million funding commitment from the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank in 2012.   In late 2015, the SCTIB ruled that the funding would be cut off unless Charleston County could produce $300 Million in matching funds for the estimated $720 Million project.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg addressed County Council and held a copy of the 2012 funding contract between SCTIB, Charleston County and the SC Dept. of Transportation (SCDOT).  He suggested that County Council Chairman Elliott Summey join him in meeting with SCTIB and SCDOT to “unwind” the contract disputes.

Summey placed the blame for the tenuous highway project on the state.

“The state of South Carolina has failed us (Charleston County) time and time again,” he said.  “That’s why we’re voting on this sales tax increase.”

Current SCTIB board member Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston), who is leaving the General Assembly in November after twenty-two years in office, says the I-526 project is clearly in jeopardy.

“The local match is not there,” he said.  “The burden was on Charleston County to come up with $300 Million, and this referendum will not produce that.”

The road projects contained in the referendum are almost all  controlled by the SCDOT.  Councilman Henry Darby notes that amounts to double taxation.

“The state already taxes us for those roads,” Darby said, “and now we’re going to tax ourselves.  I don’t think that’s fair to our taxpayers.”