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What is the issue?
I-526 or the “Mark Clark Expressway” is an interstate loop in Charleston County that currently terminates at Savannah Highway in West Ashley and in Mount Pleasant. In June 2007, the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) voted to fund the I-526 extension from the Savannah Highway terminus to the James Island Connector (SC-30). This 8 mile highway extension is estimated to cost at least $489 million dollars and save drivers only 36 seconds in travel time from West Ashley to James Island. Rather than just saying “No” to this destructive project, the Coastal Conservation League hired Glatting, Jackson, Kercher, Anglin, a transportation planning firm to create a new alternative to this massive highway project. Our alternative, “A New Way to Work,” will resolve traffic congestion in major bottleneck areas, costs over 50% less that the State plan and create an enhanced public realm centered around the road networks. Due to limited dollars and resources, we continue to advocate beyond even our own alternative and for a comprehensive approach so that the projects of highest local and state priority are pursued before and instead of politically motivated projects like the I-526 extension.
How would it affect South Carolina?
A large interstate project would continue to promote automobile-dependent transportation across Charleston County and increase sprawl outside the urban growth boundary rather than repairing those transportation corridors closer to the urban core. The proposed expansion of I-526 places pressure on rural areas and natural resources and is an inefficient use of valuable coastal land. Specifically, the proposed alignment (Alternative G) cuts through neighborhoods, the James Island County Park and impacts 17.4 acres of wetlands.
The League’s proposal for road networks in aggravated areas relieves traffic congestion, opens up public waterfront in West Ashley, creates enjoyable spaces, brings local business and services closer to where people live, and ultimately provide more transportation options. We also believe mass transit alternatives provide greater regional mobility and should be a viable option.
This affects the state of South Carolina because $420 million dollars of the total project cost comes from the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank. This is the funding entity for all projects of statewide significance and economic development and given the limited resources, by choosing to obligate funds to I-526, the state bank is choosing against funding improvements to the I-26 and I-85 corridors, funds from freight rail, and funds for new economic development like Boeing in North Charleston.
What can you do about it?
The South Carolina Department of Transportation has released their Draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS) with their selected alternative, a parkway concept, known as “alternative G”.
The “New Way to Work” alternative was eliminated during the selection process and the League is working with the Southern Environmental Law Center to address why this alternative was not studied more closely.
Charleston County Council rejected SCDOT’s preferred alternative G and asked the STIB if they could use the money to improve existing roads within Charleston County. The STIB said no and threatened Charleston County with default on their contract and reassigned the project to the SCDOT. The SCDOT must chose to accept or reject the project, and all its costs and permitting issues.
As residents and concerned citizens you can let the DOT and Charleston County know that we do not need a major highway extension by making calls, writing letters and emails and by attending public meetings.
As new development continues to cluster around the I-26 corridor, we must also direct our attention to the important transportation planning in that area. Rather than extending two bridges to rural Johns Island and building an expressway through James Island, we believe funds should be dedicated for improvements to the I-26 corridor to address the growing needs and maximize the benefit of new industry such as Boeing and the Clemson Restoration Institute wind turbine facility. Mass transit, such as light rail, is an exciting opportunity for this area and should have priority in attention and funding.
To contact County Council and support their decision for “no build” click here: http://capwiz.com/scccl/issues/alert/?alertid=53346421
To contact our state representatives and Infrastructure Bank members, asking that they support Charleston County’s decision, click here: http://capwiz.com/scccl/issues/alert/?alertid=55509621
- We save over $420 million dollars: this road project is funded by taxpayer money through the STIB. Using a large amount of this money on one major project precludes necessary projects here and elsewhere from funding resources they badly need.
- We help preserve the character of Charleston’s coast: two new bridges to Johns Island, highway lanes above James Island neighborhoods and interstate cloverleaves are not our vision for the coast. We also create an enhanced public realm and great places in the process.
- We actually improve traffic flow: If the League alternative is ultimately selected or if the $420 million is NOT spent on the Mark Clark, local traffic projects and/or light rail benefit from newly available funding and more transportation options are provided to users.
- Funds and energy will be misdirected, away from the growing I-26 corridor where attention is truly needed.
- More growth on Johns Island and in rural areas: In July of 2006, Charleston County has released the EDAW report that states that with the I-526 extension "John's Island will see 20-40% more population growth than predicted by the current BCD forecast".
- Charleston County will be lost under highway ramps: the typical commercial development and sprawling communities associated with these areas will dominate the landscape near the project.
Related ArticlesA New Way to Work
SCDOT Newsletter from July 28 2010 with our comments included
Contact County Council
Related LinksCCL Press Release
SCTIB Funding Concentration
SCDOT Selected Alternative
Impacts to Properties Near I-526
Alternative to I-526
County Does Not Owe $11 Million