On Sept. 10, the S.C. Department of Transportation released the results of a survey of Charleston residents, which showed an overwhelming percentage in favor of completion of I-526.
SCDOT commissioners conducted the survey because they did not have a clear impression from our community as to whether or not we really want to complete the Mark Clark. The survey’s message is that the answer is overwhelmingly “yes.”
No matter how you analyze the results — more than 2,100 responses from the sample survey of 5,000 households living in the ZIP codes where the road is to be built — said yes, they approve of the project. Looking at the results by age, race or gender, from every angle, the result is still the same — “yes.”
Opponents of the project have actually questioned the survey results and think DOT should have asked residents to rank their infrastructure priorities. That is not at all what DOT is trying to find out. They asked exactly the right question: Do you want to finish I-526 or not? Seventy-three percent of respondents said “yes.”
Last month our region hosted the incredibly prestigious PGA Championship. The event was a huge success, and we will see the economic impact of that event for many years.
The Ocean Course is one of the toughest in the golf world, and Kiawah would love to host another PGA again in the future. That won’t happen without completion of I-526. PGA officials made it abundantly clear that until we add needed infrastructure, our region won’t be considered for a future event.
Our region is incredibly fortunate to have significant economic development opportunities that are bringing new jobs to our community and new residents.
Hosting the PGA Championship, attracting JetBlue and Southwest airlines and being named the No. 1 tourism destination in the country will result in new visitors to our region.
We are now one of three places in the world assembling wide-bodied commercial aircraft, and in 2013 we will be home to the largest wind turbine research and development facility in the world. Both of these are significant economic development projects, which will also bring new people to live in and to visit our region.
We are fortunate that our region is going to grow, and grow significantly, in the next decade.
As a community we must effectively plan for that growth in a way that is sustainable and that respects the many wonderful assets of our area. Up-to-date infrastructure must be maintained for the region to effectively compete in the global marketplace.
Without the ability to effectively move goods and services to customers, businesses will be unable to employ our citizens and continue to provide the jobs and taxes that sustain our communities.
The completion of I-526 is just one of the priority infrastructure needs for our community. We view the completion as just that, the completion of a regional road begun decades ago.
The existing 19.26-mile stretch in Charleston opened in 1992, and since its inception there have been plans for the road to connect from Highway 17 North in Mount Pleasant to the James Island Connector. This is a crucial piece of needed regional infrastructure that will help address safety, accessibility of transportation and economic development.
In planning for our growth, we must also ensure that we protect the community’s quality of life and, in particular, protect our rural areas. By completing I-526, the local roads on Johns and James islands can remain just that, local roads. Studies have shown that by completing I-526, traffic congestion on existing roads will be eased, eliminating the need to widen many of them.
It is essential that we complete I-526, and thanks to the recent action of the S.C. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, the funding is now in place.
The residents of our community have overwhelmingly said to SCDOT they want to complete this project.
The business community supports the project. The majority of our state and local elected officials support the project.
SCDOT commissioners, our community is united on this one.
Let’s start building.
Ronald Jones Jr.
Chairman of the Board
Charleston Metro Chamber
Trident CEO Council