BALOG COLUMN: Hard work pays off for Crosstown
It's a great day in Charleston -- really. And it's a great time to be Mayor Joe Riley.
The State Infrastructure Bank voted to award $88 million to the Septima P. Clark Parkway improvement project, allowing the project to continue on time and pretty much on budget.
Three months after he was elected to his final term, and less than a year after this newspaper asked in a less-than-Southern way when the Crosstown would be fixed, the mayor can take credit for getting this monster project funded. Of course, that's not how the mayor described it.
"It's a huge achievement for the community, for the city of Charleston and the whole region," Riley said.
It is a group effort. In fact, the number of people Riley wants to thank for helping bring this project to fruition would fill this space and more, and they're all deserving, at the federal and state level as well as many, many folks in City Hall.
Hard work pays off
"We worked extremely hard to get to this point," Riley said.
It's been 10 years, and the mayor stuck to his plan, even in the face of withering criticism and second-guessing.
"The cost couldn't be expected to be borne by the citizens of Charleston," he said. "It's a federal highway that created the problem."
So he and his staff started 10 years ago with an engineering plan and spent time lobbying at the federal and state levels for funding. That cooperative effort is what helped get the project to where it is now.
"We help those who help themselves," said state Rep. Chip Limehouse of the SIB board. "It's a great success story for state government in terms of getting things done."
A master drainage plan for the city meant other areas saw flooding relief too: Ardmore, Byrnes Down, East Bay and Calhoun, and next up, Market Street.
"Those were projects that were substantially within the realm of the city's responsibility," Riley said. "A federal highway maintained by the state of South Carolina's inadequate infrastructure is not."
Which is why the city went ahead with those projects, all the while lining up funding for the Crosstown.
Worth the wait
Yes, it would be great to skip ahead to 2020 when all the 18-inch pipe has been replaced with 48-inch pipe, when there's plenty of additional capacity to handle Charleston's unenviable combination of high tides and torrential rains.
When we won't be able to take any more pictures of people paddling down the road.
When commuters won't have those moments of holding their breath, trying to figure out if today's the day they're going to lose the car to the floodwaters.
When the kids at Mitchell Elementary won't have to put their socks and shoes in the dryer because they had to wade to class.
And yes, there will be rain between now and then, and flooding, and all the things that come along with it. The mayor knows that. Heck, he won't even be the mayor when the project is finished.
But that's not what's important. And the mayor knows that too.