Last week, the State Infrastructure Bank told the Charleston County Council it has 60 days to pay back the borrowed $200 million for an Interstate-526 extension project. This came after the council decided not to complete the interstate.
A new, scaled-down version of I-526 will be presented tonight to Charleston County Council. Council member Eliott Summey says the county needs to stay within its means and avoid default.
If you look at our contract, it says in there explicitly that if the proposal comes in over budget, we have the right and the authority to do a scaled-back version or do it in stages to meet the budget. And, I think it’s only reasonable that anyone who is in government, or in business, for that matter, builds within their means.
According to Summey, if the county went into default, it would cost taxpayers more money to help pay for other projects in the area. Charleston currently has the highest credit rating a county can have–AAA. This means the more money you borrow, the lower your interest.
An original version that extends I-526 to Johns and James Islands in Charleston County costs $200 million–that the county borrowed from the State Infrastructure Bank. The new plan would only take the expressway to Johns Island, and not connect to the James Island Connector, as stated in the original plan.
We have to take a step back, we’ve got to get ourselves out of default and we have to negotiate ourselves with the ability to look at alternatives. As our contract sits right now, Charleston County Council does not have the ability to vet alternatives on our own. The contract reads and it is what it is. I think we have the ability to renegotiate that contract, I think we should try to renegotiate it and get ourselves out of default.
Last month the “no build” vote for the I-526 extension was 5-3 in favor. Summey opposed the “no build” option. He says there is a silent majority, with many residents assuming the road was going to be built. As for tonight’s meeting, Summey says if the vote supports the new project–
I think what happens is we open the EIS back up, we take a step back, we open the public hearing process, which I think can be a good thing. Because to be honest with you, I believe there is a silent majority, I think people just assumed the road was being built. We’ve been arguing, not arguing, we’ve been planning 526 longer than I’ve been alive.
Summey says if the vote tonight is in favor of the new, scaled-down version, they will open up another public hearing session.
Last week, the State Infrastructure Bank gave the Charleston County Council 60 days to pay back the $200 million after the county said they were not going to complete the expressway.