by Sam Spence
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey tells the Post and Courier today that he's "90% sure" that County Council will vote in favor of the controversial I-526 completion project when it convenes tonight for a long-awaited meeting.
As late as yesterday, County Council Chair Teddie Pryor said he was unsure of the fate of the project, or whether it would even be brought up for a vote at the meeting, but Summey says he does plan to make a motion for council to vote on the Mark Clark tonight. It's unclear whether the project will get the votes it needs to move forward, but 'yea' or 'nay,' Summey says, "I’m confident there will be resolution to this tonight."
Though County Council has been mulling the project for years, progress has stalled since it voted in April 2011 to abandon work on the highway, a vote which prompted state officials to threaten to sue the county for $11 million already spent on the project. After an attempt to turn the project over to the state was rebuffed by state transportation commissioners, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announced earlier this month that he hoped the city could take over, but without enough votes on county council to transfer the project to Mayor Joe, it looks like tonight's meeting could decide the fate of the project for good... for now.
If the county votes against the proposed plan to extend the interstate from West Ashley to the Folly Beach Connector via Johns Island, the $558 million pledged by the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank will be allocated elsewhere in the state, erasing work over the past few years to realize the county's decades-old plans for the beltway to encircle the Charleston Metro area from Mount Pleasant to James Island. Critics of the road say it will do too much irreparable harm to fragile marsh environments and do little to stem traffic issues on James and Johns Islands.
The county Finance Committee will meet at 5:00 P.M. to discuss issues related to I-526, and will decide at that point whether they will bring up the project in the meeting of the full council, which is set to follow the committee meeting. Those wishing to speak during the public comment portion of the full council meeting must sign up outside council chambers between 4-5:30pm.