CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCBD) - Charleston County Council approved a new agreement to complete I-526 after the State Infrastructure Bank approved funding the project Thursday.
By a vote of seven to two, Charleston County voted in favor of entering into an amended Intergovernmental Agreement with SIB to help fund the project.
It's a nearly $750 million dollar project that will extend the Mark Clark Expressway about eight miles to James and Johns Islands. SIB has agreed to pay $420 million toward that project. That leaves roughly $305 million that the county has to fork up.
County staff says the money will come from many funding sources, including the transportation sales tax. Charleston County Chairman, Elliott Summey, believes this is a win for Lowcountry taxpayers.
"It's been a long time coming," Summey said. "This is something we have been working on for years and we're tired of seeing the people of West Ashley, James Island, and Johns Island sitting in traffic, " he said.
This comes after years of back and forth, lawsuits, and even Governor Henry McMaster getting involved.
The project was originally brought to the county's attention in 2007. It was estimated at $420 million, and SIB had agreed to pay for the project in full. In 2015, SIB and the county learned that the project would cost more than $700 million. Shortly thereafter, SIB backed out of their agreement.
The county discussed taking legal action, but took a step back after Gov. McMaster asked them to. SIB and county reentered negotiations in October and began developing an amended IGA.
Thursday, SIB voted to approve the amended IGA by a vote of five to two.
Some of the terms of the amended IGA are as follows:
- SIB contributes $420 million cap toward project
- Charleston County pays all overruns, no matter the cost
- SIB and the county splits the preliminary costs
- Charleston County pays any legal fees, if any occur
In the special finance meeting in Charleston council chambers, councilman Dickie Schweers made it clear he did not agree with the amended IGA.
"It's just remarkable that now we are not only going to pay for this, but we are going to pay an open-ended sum," Schweers said. "There's no telling what will happen, we will solely be responsible for funding that."
Summey said finding the money will not be an issue. He also says no other road project will be in jeopardy.
"Can we fund this in a worst case scenario? The answer is yes," Summey said. "We are going to do everything to mitigate that cost, but we know we can build the projects we said we wanted to build, we can build those and this one with the same pot of money, we know we can do it."
Summey said the permitting process will start as early as Friday. He says getting the permits could take 12-18 months. After that, pending any lawsuits, construction could begin somewhere between two to five years. However, funding for the project could take 10-12 years.
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