The South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SCTIB) met yesterday to consider approving the disbursement of $420 million for the completion of I-526 (the Mark Clark Expressway) in Charleston County, but decided to delay a decision on the measure until its spring meeting.
The bank board said the delay is meant to allow Charleston County officials time to identify local matching funds for the project.
The project, first proposed in 2007 and with a total price tag of $725 million, was held up after the bank’s board yanked approval this year because local leaders could not come up with a plan to match the funds.
Business groups in the Charleston area want the funds approved so that work can begin on the long-awaited completion of the highway.
"Our region's businesses and citizens expect their elected and appointed leaders to develop and implement solutions to the region's most pressing needs," Marc Fetten, chair of the Trident CEO Council, told Palmetto Business Daily. "This is a pressing need and an important element to addressing an immediate need for improved infrastructure."
In an interview with Palmetto Business Daily last week, SCTIB board member James Wooten, chair of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said that the infrastructure bank is contractually obligated to release the funds.
“There is a contractual agreement with Charleston County and it should be adhered to and because of that contract there is no choice but to be in favor of the contract with the intent to build the road,” Wooten said.
Fetten said the continued delay is "incomprehensible."
"The inability to bring this issue to a resolution when a need is defined, a solution is developed and funding to initiate the project, even in phases, is secured, is incomprehensible for business leaders," said Fetten. "We would like to bring the parties to the table to facilitate a decision that is long overdue. We will reach out to the regions leadership to assist in any way we can to drive towards a solution."
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg expressed optimism at the SCTIB's decision.
"Today is a great day for Charleston! The State Infrastructure Bank board voted unanimously to extend the deadline for Charleston County to formally identify the local matching funds required to complete the Mark Clark Expressway," posted Tecklenburg on his Facebook page. "I'd like to personally thank the members of the Board for doing their part today to bring this critical transportation project back to life."
The Coastal Conservation League opposes the I-526 completion, claiming it will "continue to promote automobile-dependent transportation" and "increase sprawl."
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is a supporter of the expressway's completion, claiming it "will have a positive impact on economic development and job growth and will improve the quality of life for existing residents by creating safer and less time-consuming transit throughout our region."