Infrastructure investment fuels port, prosperity
Ron Brinson recently described Interstate 26 in the pages of this newspaper as our super highway to the rest of the world. I couldn’t agree more.
The citizens I represent in Berkeley County rely on this corridor to travel for work and for play, and an increasing number of businesses locating here use I-26 to access our port and, by extension, markets across the globe.
The state of South Carolina recently made an important investment in I-26 that will enhance Berkeley County’s and the Lowcountry’s ability to recruit business while fostering the growth of the Port of Charleston.
The additional $15 million commitment from the State Infrastructure Bank will help fund major improvements to I- 26 in the Jedburg area, widening the interstate to six lanes along a three-mile stretch and creating a new exit at mile marker 197.
This new Sheep Island Interchange will directly serve sites targeted for distribution centers handling cargo related to the port, the region’s major driver of the economy.
The Jedburg area already is home to the regions largest distribution facility — a one million square foot building serving TBC Corp., the parent company of Tire Kingdom and one of the nation’s largest automotive tire retailers.
The TBC project alone represents a $49 million investment in Berkeley County creating over 100 jobs. Similar distribution projects are planned for the area, all looking to take advantage of the world-class asset that is the Port of Charleston.
And as the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project becomes reality, making our shipping channels that are already the deepest channels in the region even deeper, we must commit to make equally significant improvements on the land side. Investments in I-26 and other inland infrastructure are absolutely necessary for our region and our state to remain globally competitive as we continue to recruit commerce tied to the Port of Charleston.
For its part, the South Carolina State Ports Authority is implementing $1.3 billion in capital projects to improve its existing facilities and to build the new terminal at the Navy Base.
The plan includes $8 million in construction funds toward the Sheep Island Interchange, added to the $7 million the SPA has already provided the county for the project.
The Ports Authority is accomplishing these major projects through internally generated funds, independent of any taxpayer dollars, as part of its public mission. It is the obligation of our state to support this investment.
As Berkeley County officials continue talks with private developers and shippers that have an interest in putting down roots in our area, it is essential to fund those infrastructure projects that drive the growth of our port, job creation and ultimately the prosperity of our citizens.
Paul Campbell, a Republican, represents Berkeley County’s District 44 in the S.C. Senate. He is a retired Southeast regional president of Alcoa.