pc-041418-ne-526markclark (copy) (copy)

An aerial view of where I-526 ends near Citadel Mall in West Ashley. 

Charleston County Council isn't suing the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board for pulling out of the Interstate 526 project — at least not yet.

Council voted after a closed-door session Thursday night to heed Gov. Henry McMaster's advice to hold off taking the issue to court so he can mediate a meeting with the involved parties to get the interstate extension back on track.

McMaster supports the project, but his two appointees to the Infrastructure Bank voted against providing funds for it in the 4-3 decision last month. 

When the county and Infrastructure Bank first signed a contract to extend I-526 to Johns and James islands more than a decade ago, the bank pledged $420 million toward it. Under the 2007 agreement, the county pledged to complete millions of dollars of upgrades to several state-owned highways, at the county's expense, as a match. The county's work was finished years ago.

The project has been stalled since 2015 because estimated construction costs have nearly doubled, setting off the dispute between Charleston County, the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Infrastructure Bank about whether to raise funds to cover it or abandon the plan altogether. 

The county's legal staff notified the bank board on June 28 of its plans to sue for a breach of contract if the board didn't rejoin the agreement by July 16. 

McMaster sent a letter July 13 to the chairmen of the Infrastructure Bank board and County Council, urging the county not to sue until he could intervene with a mediation.

Council voted 7-1 to follow his advice, with Councilman Dickie Schweers opposed. 

"Anytime somebody's offering you to help resolve a dispute of this nature, of course you're going to take that help. And hopefully, he'll be able to accomplish what he says," said Council Chairman Vic Rawl. "If the SIB refuses to comply or cooperate with the governor's office, then we are at liberty to proceed with whatever the legal rights we have, whether it's litigation or otherwise."

He said he hopes the board will revive the agreement as originally written.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.