Charleston County Council will soon decide whether or not to transfer the responsibility for plans to complete I-526 to the City of Charleston. Since planning for this was first proposed and put onto paper 40 years ago, a lot of changes have taken place.
We cannot afford to be stuck in the past, doing things the way they always have been done.
Fundamental assumptions used for planning during the past years have become obsolete or irrelevant — or wrong — at an increasingly rapid rate.
Life is about change. Some of the changes we are experiencing are in basic paradigms. Communications, geographic sciences, and especially the understanding of and appreciation for sustainable economic growth.
Economic and geographical realities in South Carolina have changed faster than political comprehension and planning have incorporated the changes.
Forty years ago was a time before the acceptance of global warming, and its associated facts — a rise of sea level and an increased frequency of catastrophic coastal storms.
These are reasons enough not to encourage increased population density in the lowlands of the Sea Islands.
The plans for I-526 were made during years when unlimited growth was assumed for Charleston County. The present documented shortfall in revenue from the half-cent sales tax ($100 million and counting) over the past few years is another example of an unanticipated change.
Council has a moral imperative not to saddle future generations with taxes to pay for huge concrete and steel projects like the extension of I-526 — unless absolutely necessary.
By almost any standards, it would be a venial sin to build two new high rise bridges of the same design over the Stono River within sight of the existing two, almost new, fine bridges — which today are used at only a fraction of their design capacity.
Mayor Riley’s impassioned request could just as well have been channeled into a plea to help him reduce the number of cars heading into downtown Charleston looking for a place to park.
More, bigger and higher parking garages do not add anything to the finite footprint of the historic Charleston peninsula.
Flexible mass rapid transit is now being used in other parts of the world to alleviate that problem. It is cheaper, available now and more responsive to unforeseen changes.
We need to help Charleston County utilize the avenues we already have, and save our children the burden of paying for the “free money” from the State Infrastructure Bank that Mayor Riley is committed to spend.
This easy money is the only justification I have heard that you should vote now to build the (at least) $560 million worth of already outdated and inflexible plans.
Outdated plans, incomplete visions — questionable motivation. Something feels wrong with the mayor’s request.
We can do better.
We should update and use what we already have.
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