CHARLESTON S.C. (WCBD)— Governor McMaster says that the project to extend interstate I-526 across Johns and James island is moving forward.
The governor was in the Lowcountry today — pledging continued support of the project.
“Building a highway, particularly in such a sensitive area as this, takes a lot of work and a lot of care, but its going to get done,” McMaster said.
Charleston County has been talking about completing I-526 for years and the project gained traction last year when Governor McMaster told the State Infrastructure Bank to support the project with funding.
Today, McMaster told local leaders that the state is still on board.
“This road will be very important for prosperity, for transportation, not only for residents and businesses, but for tourists. As well as for evacuation and safety,” McMaster said.
The total cost of the project is upwards of $750 million with the State Infrastructure Bank paying for $420 million and Charleston County paying around $350 million.
The governor says that with the project funded, things can move ahead.
However, Charleston County Council Chairman, Elliot Summey says that a lawsuit filed by the Coastal Conservation League may delay them from beginning construction.
“A timeline for construction? Call the Coastal Conservation league. If they’ll quit suing us, then we’ll get started,” Summey said.
The Coastal Conservation League filed a lawsuit, back in May, against Charleston County and the State Infrastructure Bank over the funding contract to finish I-526.
The suit centers around how Charleston County plans to fund the extension with funding from previous half-cent sales tax referendums passed in 2004 and 2016.
The Coastal Conservation League claims that in 2016, I-526 was not listed in the ordinance Charleston County Council approved to put the sales tax referendum on the ballot.
“All of the risk for $300 million dollars plus cost overruns falls on Charleston County residents. Charleston County residents didn’t vote for this, but they are being forced to take on all of the risk and we just don’t think that’s right,” Diane Knich, Communications Associate for Coastal Conservation League said.
Chairman Summey speaks out about the lawsuit from the Coastal Conservation League, saying, “This is a highly funded, propaganda type group that is trying to impede safety and progress for the residents of Charleston County. This road is going to be built.”
According to Charleston County officials, the motion hearing for the lawsuit from the Coastal Conservation League is in October.
Despite the lawsuit, Charleston County and Governor McMaster say they are moving forward with permitting process with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the I-526 project.