Berkeley County officials told key members of the State Infrastructure Bank on Thursday that the county needs $30 million to widen Interstate 26 and improve other roads for a world-class distribution center near Summerville.
Then Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told the same group that the city really needs $88 million to create a drainage system for the Crosstown Expressway, which was built over an old creek bed with no workable drainage system.
And then Dorchester County officials told the bank members it needed $19 million to improve roads to Ashley Ridge High School and buy right of way for widening U.S. Highway 78 west of Summerville.
State Infrastructure Bank President Don Leonard called all three presentations "excellent."
The only problem? The bank doesn't have nearly enough money.
The three Lowcountry projects are competing with others in Beaufort, York and Jasper counties. These six requests add up to $462 million, while the bank has about $80 million to grant.
Three members of the bank met at Charleston City Hall to begin hearing details on the projects. Within a few months, they will advise the full seven-member bank board, which will make the final decisions.
Several state lawmakers joined in Thursday's presentations, but none were optimistic about increasing the bank's bank account in the short term.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said the Legislature is unlikely to channel new revenue to the bank next year, and he said it's "very unlikely" the S.C. Department of Transportation can help. "DOT is still sorting through their cash-flow catastrophe," he said.
Gov. Nikki Haley wasn't at the bank meeting, but she made a similar point in Summerville on Thursday. Asked if she would support raising the state's gas tax so tourists passing through could contribute toward repairing the state's roads, Haley said she wouldn't favor that until the DOT is reformed.
Kate Parks of the Coastal Conservation League attended the presentations and later noted the bank's cash crunch would be eased if it dropped the already-funded but controversial $420 million Interstate 526 project between West Ashley and James Island.
"What is clear to me is 526 just doesn't compete with these projects," she said.
And these six projects don't include a $358 million plan application that Lowcountry officials are preparing to improve roads in and around Boeing's new North Charleston plant.