Road bank OKs Myers Parkway, Crosstown funding

The S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank on Monday approved $30 million for the third and final phase of the Berlin G. Myers Parkway in Summerville.

COLUMBIA — Two critical regional road projects — the Berlin G. Myers Parkway extension and drainage improvements to the Septima P. Clark Parkway — received financial approvals Monday from the S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank board.

The seven-member bank board unanimously approved $30 million for the third and final phase of the Berlin G. Myers Parkway in Summerville. It also voted unanimously to allow the city of Charleston to spend $14 million of the $88 million allocated for the Septima P. Clark Parkway, which also is known as the Crosstown, in 2016 instead of 2017. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says that move will save $1.1 million.

But the news wasn’t as good for the completion of Interstate 526 across Johns and James islands. The board was going to discuss its portion for the project’s still-incomplete, three-party contract behind closed doors. But state Sen. Hugh Leatherman had to leave early, so that didn’t happen.

State Rep. Chip Limehouse, a Charleston Republican and a member of the bank’s board, said the board will discuss the contract May 18.

Summerville Mayor Bill Collins said he started writing about the Berlin G. Myers Parkway in 1973, when he was a reporter. So he was thrilled Monday when the bank’s board approved the money to complete the final 3 miles of the 9-mile road. “I’m so happy I don’t know what to do,” Collins said.

The road now runs from U.S. Highway 17-A, near Interstate 26’s Exit 199, to West Carolina Avenue. The final phase will run parallel to the Sawmill Branch Canal from West Carolina Avenue, cross Luden Drive, and end at U.S. 17-A below Orangeburg Road.

Collins said the parkway extension will cost a total of $74 million, $20 million of that will come from Dorchester County’s 1-cent sales tax and $24 million from federal sources.

The project still has some environmental permit hurdles to jump, Collins said. But he hopes work will begin in the spring of 2016.

Limehouse said finishing the parkway is important to traffic flow in a growing part of the region. “It should already have been completed,” he said. “I see it as a tri-county project.”

Riley said the bank ultimately will contribute $88 million to the $154 million Crosstown drainage project. The city was expecting to receive the money between 2017 and 2020, he said. “It’s a major community works project.”

But the city wanted to begin the next phase of the project in 2016. “It’s the most expensive part of the project,” he said.

That phase includes digging four shafts that connect to a tunnel that is 12 feet in diameter and more than 100 feet beneath the road’s surface. The tunnel will run from Coming Street to the Ashley River. Water will drain into the tunnel, which eventually will connect to a pump station near the Ashley River.

Riley said now that the money is approved, work on the shafts and tunnel can begin in late summer.

The city was going to issue bond-anticipation notes so it could begin work before 2017, Riley said. It likely will save $1.1 million in interest because of the bank’s move Monday.

Riley also said there only are about 10 companies in the United States qualified to do the deep-tunnel work the project requires. Two of those companies currently are working in the Lowcountry, he said. The city likely can get a better rate because they already are here.

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said he was disappointed with another project delay.

County Council voted in favor of the $558 million project in December 2012, but the updated three-party contract between the Infrastructure Bank, Charleston County and the state Department of Transportation still isn’t complete.

Summey said the county and the SCDOT already have signed, so the Infrastructure Bank is holding up the project. “What’s the problem? Somebody tell me,” Summey said.

DOT Commission Chairman Jim Rozier, who also is a member of the bank board, said the contract is being held up over concerns about who will cover the cost of overruns and lawsuits.

Limehouse said he thinks the cost of lawsuits should fall to the county, and overruns should be discussed as needs arise. “We’re a funding arm,” he said, “not a litigation arm.”

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