Charleston City Council votes in favor of requesting to take over I-526 project

Citizens speak Tuesday about the completion of I-526 at the Charleston City Council meeting. Buy this photo

Charleston City Council voted 11-2 tonight in favor of asking Charleston County Council to turn over completion of Interstate 526 across Johns and James islands to the city.

Only Councilmen Blake Hallman and Dudley Gregorie were opposed. The group voted in front of a standing-room-only crowd of residents who came out to learn more about the project and to speak publicly. More than 40 county residents addressed City Council during the comment session.

If County Council, the project’s current sponsor, votes next month to turn it over the city, the city would build the long-stalled project.

City Councilman Marvin Wagner, who represents portions of West Ashley and Johns Island, voted in favor of the city taking it on. He said he thinks the majority of his constituents support the road, so he had to vote in favor of it. “I didn’t have a choice,” he said.

But Hallman, who represents a portion of West Ashley, voted against the project. “I can’t vote for a transportation project that would save so little time for so much money,” he said.

Even though the majority of City Council members want to take over the project, it doesn’t appear that a majority of County Council members will vote to turn it over.

County Councilwoman Colleen Condon said she doesn’t think a majority of the nine County Council members would vote in favor of turning over the $558 million extension of I-526. “I can’t imagine there are five (County) Council members who are willing to abdicate the responsibility” to make a decision, Condon said. If council members are opposed to the project, they shouldn’t turn it over to the city, because the city would build it, she said. If council members support the road, why would they give up control of the project?

Both project supporters and opponents packed City Council chambers to comment. More than 40 people passionately spoke either about the need to preserve the local environment, especially on Johns Island, or the need to alleviate traffic congestion.

Read more later on Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.

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