Charleston’s mayor on Thursday indicated he had withdrawn Charleston County’s latest request for help with funding Interstate 526’s completion.
Mayor John Tecklenburg’s office released a letter he wrote to state Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB) Chairman Vince Graham pulling a request to use $150 million from potential future sales tax money towards a port access road project. Tecklenburg and Charleston County Chairman Elliott Summey had floated the possibility of using the money to pay for several rail overpasses at new Intermodal Container Transfer Facility under construction in North Charleston as a way to free up state money for I-526, also known as the Mark Clark Expressway. The state is required to complete at least three rail bridges before the new terminal opens in three years.
That money would come from a half-cent sales tax that county voters will decide in an Election Day referendum. In the letter, Tecklenburg said Graham indicated the board would not meet before the Nov. 8 referendum. Charleston County officials had been scheduled to meet with the board on Oct. 6, but Hurricane Matthew scrapped those plans.
“Now with less than two weeks to the election, I am interpreting your response —’I don’t think so’— (to rescheduling the meeting) as a no,” Tecklenburg wrote.
“I remain fully committed to working with you, the SIB Board, and Charleston County to resolve issues… positively and thoroughly, to enable the completion of the extension of the Mark Clark, which is critical to meeting transportation demands the community faces,” the mayor wrote. “I am confident the phased approach we proposed is achievable.”
A 2012 intergovernmental agreement would have had the SIB fund $420 million of the project, while the county would shoulder the remaining cost. But county officials have argued their share is unreasonably large (estimated to be between $300-$350 million) and argue the state went back on its original pledge to fund the entire project. In February, SCDOT suspended pre-construction work on the project until Charleston County comes up with a funding solution. County officials have tried to push several new funding plans, including the possibility of using sales tax revenue should voters approve next month’s referendum.
The Charleston Post & Courier reports county officials are also pulling their request.