Airport road projects to take off County Council vote begins process for new I-26 interchange, other improvements

(File/Grace Beahm/Staff) A new interchange along Interstate 26 in North Charleston is being proposed as part of the $80 million in roadwork planned near and around the Boeing South Carolina campus.

Grace Beahm

Preliminary work can begin on a new interchange along Interstate 26 in North Charleston, which is part of $80 million in roadwork planned near and around the Boeing South Carolina campus.

At a special meeting Thursday, Charleston County Council voted 8-0 with one abstention in favor of a resolution that will allow the county to begin the design and engineering work on three projects that will provide faster access to the Boeing campus at the Charleston International Airport.

The projects are a new I-26 interchange between Ashley Phosphate Road and U.S. Highway 78 exits, the extension of South Aviation Avenue to the Palmetto Commerce Parkway, and moving International Boulevard closer to Dorchester Road.

County Council’s Finance Committee last month approved borrowing $80 million to launch the projects by issuing bonds, shortly after Boeing said it would invest another $1.1 billion and hire 2,000 more workers in South Carolina.

County Administrator Kurt Taylor said the resolution passed Thursday was a required step under federal Treasury regulations, which allows the county to expedite the process.

The county now can begin preliminary design and engineering work, Taylor said. It will be reimbursed for those expenses from the eventual borrowings.

Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey, who abstained from the vote, said the move marks the projects’ first steps. “What you’re seeing is a project in its infancy,” Summey said. “It’s not even really an infant yet. It’s a baby in its mama’s belly.”

Summey said he abstained from the vote because he has a real-estate-related conflict of interest.

The new I-26 interchange would tie into a new road that has been called “Future Drive,” between the Ashley Phosphate Road and U.S. Highway 78 exits. From there it would link up with Palmetto Commerce Parkway, which in turn would connect to an extended South Aviation Avenue via a new overpass over Ashley Phosphate.

South Aviation runs directly to the Boeing campus at the airport. Right now it’s mostly a two-lane airport perimeter service road.

The South Aviation extension will directly connect the planemaker’s 787 interiors factory on Palmetto Commerce and its main assembly plant at the airport. Officials last month said the new road connection would make the land between the two sites more attractive to Boeing suppliers and other businesses, as well as relieve traffic congestion in the area.

The county plans to repay the bonds with money the aerospace giant pays instead of property taxes, under what is known as a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement. That was part of the incentive package that brought Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner assembly operation to South Carolina.

Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said the resolution was just the next step in the process. “We’ll have the funding in place when we’re ready to move forward.”

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