I-526 project lacks transparency

I-526 project lacks transparency
March 31 16:42 2018 Print This Article

Charleston County recently submitted a local funding proposal for the completion of I-526 to the SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) board this week, consisting of $62 Million from the 2006 0.5% transportation sales tax, $108 Million in federal Guideshares transportation funds allocated by the Charleston Area Transportation Study Committee (CHATS), and $150 Million in future general obligation bonds. Like a previous lawsuit against the STIB and the South Carolina Department of Transportation which was dismissed in October 2017, the funding proposal did not approved in a public vote by Charleston County Council. The move marks a continuation of the lack of transparency for this long-standing road project which would connect West Ashley with Johns Island and Johns Island with James Island.

The seven-member STIB, chaired by Spartanburg lawyer John White, does not have a meeting scheduled to discuss the local funding proposal. White could call for a meeting or four of the seven members could request it. Former State Representative Chip Limehouse is the only Charleston-area member of the board. While Governor Henry McMaster can’t convene a meeting on the issue, he does appoint the STIB chair. His office can be reached at 803-734-2100. There is $420 Million in state funding on the line for a project which could top $700 Million.

Charleston County had several previous opportunities to identify local funding sources and declined to do so. In 2016, Charleston County voters approved another 0.5% transportation sales tax, totaling $2.1 Billion. That revenue source was never offered by Charleston County. If the $420 Million contract is terminated, the money will return to the STIB. It can’t be used for other Charleston County transportation projects.

Charleston County Council’s Finance Committee, which includes all nine members, meets Thursday, April 5 at 5 pm, and the regular County Council Meeting is Tuesday, April 10 at 6:30. Contact your County Council member¬†and ask for an on-the-record vote for the I-526 local funding proposal. When $320 Million in public funding is committed, it should not be done by administrative fiat. County Council members have a fiduciary responsibility to vote on spending initiatives.