State taking control of expressway completion

The state slid into the driver's seat Thursday of the stalled Interstate 526 project on James and Johns islands.

"This project has been languishing for quite some time. It couldn't move any slower. We're taking the project from Charleston County and we're moving it back to the state," said Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, a State Infrastructure Bank board member.

"Quite frankly, I think County Council would be glad to get rid of it," he said.

In a unanimous bank board vote, responsibility for the $420 million project was shifted from the county to the state Department of Transportation subject to the county and DOT signing off on the change, he said.

"A project of this magnitude should have been with the DOT to begin with," he said.

Limehouse attended the meeting by phone at his Cumberland Street office, where one bank board member could be heard during the meeting stating that the goal of the action was to keep the project on track and moving forward. The county has received $11 million so far for I-526 construction, money it will not be required to pay back unless it takes action to block building the four-lane highway, board members said.

Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said he had no immediate comment on the vote Thursday by bank board. Pryor said he wanted to receive something official from the bank detailing its board vote on I-526 and give county legal staff time to review it.

DOT spokesman Pete Poore said he couldn't comment for the same reasons.

"We want to see everything in writing with all the details. I'm assuming this will have to go to the commission," Poore said.

The SIB was established in 1997 to select and assist in financing major qualified projects exceeding $100 million by providing loans and other financial assistance for constructing and improving highway and transportation facilities necessary for public purposes including economic development, according to its website.

 

Read tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier for more details.