Charleston County Council approves I-526
Charleston County Council voted 5-4 tonight in favor of building I-526.
Council members voting in favor of the project were: Teddie Pryor, Elliott Summey, Vic Rawl, Herb Sass and Anna Johnson. Council members Colleen Condon, Joe Qualey, Dickie Schweers and Henry Darby were opposed.
Charleston County Council chambers is packed with supporters and opponents of the controversial completion of Interstate 526.
County staffers say they have set up overflow rooms throughout the building.
Supporters came to encourage County Council to vote in favor of building the road. Opponents are hoping the project is shut down.
County Council Chairman Elliott Summey has said he’s “90 percent sure” the group will vote tonight to build the long-stalled road across Johns and James islands.
West Ashley resident Clare Richter said she wants it completed. “I’m looking at the big picture,” she said. “The community needs this.”
But others worry about their communities being harmed, and they think the current parkway plan for the road is not the best solution to traffic problems.
West Ashley resident Frances Reynolds, who lives in the Savannah condominiums, said the road would come through her community. She wouldn’t lose her house. “But I’m going to look out my bedroom window and see traffic,” she said.
Marilyn Samuel said many opponents don’t want “no-build.” They want “better build.”
Summey has said he plans to make a motion for the group to take a vote on the $558 million project.
“If it passes, it passes,” he said. “If it fails, it fails. But people for and against it need closure.” Summey, who has consistently supported the project, said for him, “it’s a business decision. It’s not personal.”
But, he added, past decisions on I-526 have come as a surprise to him. It’s such a controversial project, that he can’t rule out a surprise in tonight’s vote.
He’s sure of one thing, he said. “I’m confident there will be resolution to this tonight.”
Barbara Carter, who also lives in the Savannah condominiums in West Ashley, hopes council will vote against the road. If the project moves forward she will lose her home, along with 15 others in her complex.
She’s also concerned about her neighbors who would remain in the 70-unit complex. Their property values would drop dramatically if an interstate is built so close by.
Brad Taggart, a member of Charlestonians for I-526, which has more than 3,000 members on Facebook, said in a prepared statement that his group is encouraging council members to “show leadership and address the growing pains of our community” by voting in favor of the project.
If the county turns down the money from the S.C. Transportation Bank to build the road, the money will go elsewhere. “We will have lost our opportunity to fix our traffic while it’s fixable,” he said.
Council’s Finance Committee will discuss I-526 tonight. Committee meetings began at 5 p.m. A full council meeting will follow.
Check postandcourier.com for updates. Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.