Charleston County must force negotiations on I-526 deal

Charleston County must force negotiations on I-526 deal
May 09 14:08 2018 Print This Article

Meeting for the first time since July 2017, the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) board decided Monday to take no action on the I-526 project, which has been pending for more than a decade. The STIB board spent about two hours behind closed doors in executive session and spent no time in the public meeting discussing the terms of the contract. A contract was signed in 2007 committing $420 Million for the project, which would connect West Ashley with Johns Island from the I-526 terminus near Citadel Mall and connect Johns Island with James Island.

The project is estimated to cost more than $720 Million to complete. The revised contract between the STIB, Charleston County and the SCDOT calls for Charleston County to pay for the balance beyond the $420 allocated by the STIB. A sticking point during the past few years has been identifying the local funding sources. Charleston County officials presented STIB with a funding package in March consisting of $62 Million from the transportation sales tax approved by voters in 2004, $108 Million in federal Guideshares funding approved by the Charleston Area Transportation Study Committee (CHATS), and $150 Million in general obligation bonds to be authorized by Charleston County Council.

State Senator Sandy Senn, a major proponent of the I-526 completion project, arranged a meeting between Charleston-area legislators and Governor Henry McMaster last week to discuss expediting the project. McMaster sent a letter to STIB Chair John White of Spartanburg asking the board to defer action on the contract until all issues are resolved.

Now it up to Charleston County officials to negotiate the case directly with STIB officials prior to the scheduled June 25 meeting to discuss the I-526 contract. Are officials satisfied with Charleston County’s proposed $320 Million local match proposal? If not, what funding sources would it find more acceptable? Retired State Representative Chip Limehouse, who served in the House for 22 years, is the only Charleston-area member of the seven-member board. It is clear that many board members, in not a majority, want to get out of the contract. It is up to our County Council to push the issue and get the project back on track.