by Sam Spence
Charleston City Council chambers will be standing-room-only tonight as Mayor Joe Riley is expected to ask council to request that Charleston County turn over the completion of the I-526 beltway to the city. The move would put the project under Riley, who’s been a relentless advocate for the highway, which, despite recently receiving full funding from the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, has languished under the supervision of Charleston County Council since signing an agreement with the state in 2007.
After first voting to abandon the project earlier this year, county council requested that the state take over the highway’s completion when the Infrastructure Bank threatened to hold the county responsible for more than $11 million already spent on the project. State Department of Transportation commissioners rejected the proposal in September, sending the plans back to the county, where they sat until Riley announced his intent to request the project’s transfer two weeks ago.
Riley said he believes city councilmembers will approve the measure, which would then require county council and Infrastructure Bank approval before the keys to the Mark Clark are officially handed over to the city. It is unclear if there are enough votes on county council to approve the mayor’s plan.
When asked if he can remember council ever considering a project similar in scale and scope to I-526, City Councilman Mike Seekings said, “Never,” and called the chance to weigh in a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Seekings said he would likely vote in favor of the mayor’s request, assuming it did not add any undue financial strain on the city.