I-526 likely rejected today

The James Island Connector now ends at Folly Road. If built, the Mark Clark Extension would continue over Folly Road into an area along Ellis Creek to new interesections at Riley Road and Riverland Road before slicing through the James Island County Park.

The S.C. Department of Transportation Commission today will discuss whether to take over from Charleston County the completion of Interstate 526 across Johns and James islands.

The controversial project has polarized communities across the area. Supporters of the road say it would alleviate traffic problems and promote safety. Opponents say it would promote sprawl and development, and that the state has much more pressing road needs.

Question: Will the DOT vote today on whether to take on I-526?

Answer: Almost certainly yes.

Q: How will the vote turn out?

A: Several sources with close DOT ties say the commission likely will vote against taking on the project.

Q: Does that mean the extension of I-526 is dead?

A: Probably, at least for now. If the DOT votes it down, the project would remain in the hands of Charleston County. County Council voted unanimously this year against the DOT's parkway plan for the project.

Q: Who has been pushing for the road?

A: The project has some powerful political supporters, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.

Q: Is there any other group out there that could take on such a project?

A: Harrell has previously suggested that the regional Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments' transportation committee could do that. Other groups have said they don't think that group has the legal authority to build a road.

Q: What would happen to the money set aside for the $558 million project if the DOT votes against it?

A: The S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank has pledged the money for the project, which it would borrow by issuing bonds. It remains unclear how the money would be used if it is not spent on I-526.

Q: Can supporters of the I-526 project hold out any hope that someday it will be completed?

A: Maybe. Until funding for the project is reallocated, Charleston County Council, or perhaps the DOT, could reconsider their decisions.

Q: Can I attend the meeting?

A: Yes. The meeting will be held at 11:30 a.m. today in room 306 at the DOT offices at 955 Park Street in Columbia.

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