Engineers and county officials dusted off plans for the long-running, controversial project to extend Interstate 526 this week for the public to review and you have new chances to weigh in.
State and local officials said at a Thursday press conference they’re as confident as ever that the project will go through, despite years of waffling from politicians and residents over whether it’s a good idea.
Either way, county and state engineers are compiling a newly updated regulatory report in the coming months, so you’ll be hearing a lot more about it.
Here are five things you need to know about the newly revived I-526 project:
Officials are collecting comments for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. As part of the latest public comment period, Charleston County and S.C. Department of Transportation are collecting comments to consider and incorporate into a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that will lay out the expected changes that may come from the project. Everything from noise and wetland destruction to traffic improvements and growth modeling are included in the report, expected later this year.
One public hearing is planned for Sept. 14 in West Ashley where people will be able to speak and ask questions. Two community meetings are planned Aug. 31 on Johns Island and Sept. 1 on James Island. You can find out more info, review the maps and plans, attend the public hearing virtually and submit a comment online at scdotmarkclark.com.
The plans haven’t changed much. Minor changes have been specific intersections and the proposed multiuse path that will parallel the highway. But overall, the path of the project is the same “Alternative G” that last got a major look in 2016.
There’s no price tag yet. Estimates made in 2014 put the cost of the project at between $725 million and $772 million in 2019 dollars. Updated costs are not yet available. The county and state have allocated about $736 million for the project so far. Anything over that amount, the county will be on the hook for funding. County officials said Thursday that other sources of funding would be explored if needed, including federal dollars.
There’s a bike and pedestrian path. The existing I-526 loop has been criticized for its lack of pedestrian access, but existing proposals include a 12-foot “multiuse path” that engineers said would be separated from traffic along much of the extension. Current plans show a dedicated pedestrian on-ramp from the West Ashley Greenway on one end and a protected path to James Island County Park on the other. Still, some worry it may not be wide enough.
Critics are still urging the project be scrapped. Not surprisingly, soon after plans for the project went online, analysts from the Coastal Conservation League started directing supporters to urge the state and county to shelf the plan for good, calling it a “last-century highway project that benefits few and impacts many” in an email blast to supporters.
Find out more about I-526 at scdotmarkclark.com.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.