Charleston, S.C. (WCBD)- The Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) is set to meet today in Columbia but surprisingly, the I-526 extension isn’t listed on the agenda.
The extension has been discussed at meetings in the past and was expected to be brought up today. At February’s meeting, the JBRC deferred action on a request from the South Carolina State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) and Charleston County. This put the SIB’s $420 million commitment and the issuance of bonds for Charleston County’s portion of the project on hold.
A special subcommittee was created to study how Charleston County would fund its portion of the project. It was believed that subcommittee would provide an update today; considering at the last meeting in May, we were told Senator Leatherman wouldn’t allow the committee to vote on the extension approval…now we’re told the extension won’t be discussed at all.
Chip Limehouse, a board member on the SIB says it probably isn’t on the agenda because the Chair doesn’t want it to be. He tells News 2, “At this point we need our members to urge it to be placed on the next agenda or urge the chairman to call a special meeting to take up 526”.
County Council approved an agreement for the extension in January with a 7-2 vote. In response to questions about how 526 and other County projects planned to be funded, Chairman Elliott Summey said, “There will be plenty of money to pay our portion for 526, and fund the other projects in the pipeline for the half cent sales tax“. He added, “This is not an ‘either/or’ situation. Those projects will also be done as planned“.
The county’s goal is to extend the Mark Clark Expressway about eight miles to James and Johns islands. The state infrastructure bank has agreed to pay $420 million toward that project leaving roughly $305 million for the county to provide.
But not everyone is on board with the project or how it’s being funded. The Coastal Conservation League has filed a lawsuit challenging the use of half cent sales tax funds for the extension of interstate 526. They claim that voters were not aware that the funds from the half cent sales tax would be used for the I-526 extension.
Laura Cantral, the Executive Director for the Coastal Conservation League says, “When voters were asked to vote for the 2016 half cent sales tax to fund a number of projects related to transportation and drainage this project was not on that list”. She adds that she wants to see the money being used to ease congestion to improve the quality of life for citizens and protect out natural resources.