The U.S. Department of Transportation approved $10 million to address the frequent flooding along the Crosstown — the portion of Highway 17 that crosses the peninsula and routinely disappears underwater when there’s a good rain at high tide.

The city and the local Congressional delegation have lobbied for aid from Washington to address the federal road, noting it’s an evacuation route and delivers emergency vehicles to the region’s leading medical campuses, including the Veterans Administration hospital.

The funding is just a small percentage of the nearly $150 million that will be necessary to fully fund the ambitious drainage plan, which includes drilling deep pipes running the length of the road toward a new pump station on the shore of the Ashley River.

It’s unclear how the city will be able to spend this money. As currently designed, the project needs all the money committed to complete the project before construction begins. The modest award will require the city to work with a liaison at the Department of Transportation to see what could possibly be done with this money, considering that the goal of the stimulus is expedient job creation.

Calling the road a “scar through the city,” Mayor Joe Riley suggested this money will open up new opportunities for federal funding for the project. “It’s a substantial acknowledgment of the federal role and responsibility in addressing the drainage problem of the Crosstown,” says Riley.

Other than the excitement at the opportunities this provides, the mayor was unsure where the remaining money for this project could come from. But he did note that, through this process, the city has had the opportunity to alert Transportation leaders in Washington to the very real flooding issues drivers face several times a year.

“What we got is a very significant down payment,” Riley says.

The Crosstown is the largest piece in a massive flooding puzzle the city has been working on for nearly three decades. It has spent more than $40 million to fix smaller flooding problems throughout the peninsula, as well as more than $3 million a year in routine drainage maintenance, through a stormwater management fee.

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