It’s not dead, yet.
A South Carolina transportation financing panel voted Tuesday to extend the timeframe for negotiations on the Interstate 526 extension project. In a conference call meeting, the state Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SCTIB) board extended the deadline until Sept. 13. The vote signaled an eleventh-hour reprieve for supporters after the same board voted in May to wind down the more than $720 million project.
However, I-526’s supporters doubt the additional two months will be nearly enough time to find a funding solution. “That timeframe is just way, way, way too short in terms of highway construction,” State Rep. Chip Limehouse, a SCTIB board member, told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s a blink of an eye when you talk about a project of this magnitude.”
The project has a convoluted history between Charleston County and the state. The county entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) in 2007 to help build the project with the Infrastructure Bank’s help. The Infrastructure Bank eventually agreed to provide $420 million in funds, with Charleston County providing the rest. But the project’s estimated costs ballooned to $720 million and the county says it has no realistic way to raise its share of the costs.
SCTIB gave the county a deadline the spring to come up with a funding plan, but voted to shut down the project after the county failed to reach consensus on a specific proposal. Some members of county council tried to include I-526’s completion on a proposed half-cent sales tax referendum last week, but disagreement on council led to the entire plan being dropped at Thursday’s meeting.
In a press conference after the vote Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said the parties involved will meet again next week. He also threatened a possible lawsuit against the SCTIB over their withdrawal of support.