The message was clear from most of the residents who came out to comment on the proposed expansion of I-526 from West Ashley to the James Island Connector: No, thank you.
The Department of Transportation wrapped up a grueling five-night public hearing schedule with a John's Island stop on Thursday. It wasn't the largest crowd, but well over 100 residents came out to hear the $489 million pitch, which includes a 45-mph "parkway" that DOT officials expect will reduce the environmental and community impacts that had been predicted in the original high-speed freeway plan.
Four residents spoke in favor of the project, but they were overshadowed by nearly 50 people who gave a list of criticisms. They worry that if the plan goes forward, marshes would be ruined, properties would be damaged, and wildlife would be driven away. They said the project was too expensive for the limited benefit on Savannah Highway.
Stacy Cook called the proposal "an eight-mile monstrosity." Several residents implored local and state officials to fix existing roads first. Others called for more investment in public transportation.
Those leading the opposition directed like-minded residents to not only share their concerns with the DOT, but also with the Charleston County Council, which will still have to find the money to address the project's $69 million shortfall.