A recent poll conducted for Palmetto Business Daily found that reducing traffic congestion is cited as the most important issue by Mt. Pleasant voters.
At a May forum of Charleston business leaders, Mt. Pleasant Town Councilman Mark Smith cited state and federal regulations as one impediment to fixing local roads and easing the traffic burden.
“From the time we announce funding for a project, it takes several years before that project is actually shovel-ready,” said Smith, explaining that while he believes many of these regulations are important, the process needs to be made more efficient to enable projects to be completed sooner.
In an interview with Palmetto Business Daily, Mt. Pleasant Mayor Linda Page echoed Smith's comments, agreeing there is much frustration in the region over road project delays.
"One of the most frustrating issues we are facing is the delay of projects due to the environmental restrictions and state regulations," Page said. "We have taken upon ourselves to raise a local sales tax for infrastructure improvements, and it will be at least five years before any of these major improvements get built."
Smith told Palmetto Business Daily that, while road funding and major road project discussions, such as the Interstate 526 completion, gain headlines, the issue of regulation is one that often flies below the radar.
"There is absolute agreement (among local leaders) that we have to get to work on state and federal officials" to speed the processes that allow projects to be "shovel-ready," said Smith.
He said it was not acceptable that it takes two to three years for work to begin on a project after funding is approved. He cited the permitting process and other regulations, including environmental, as key drivers in delaying work.
"The sooner local municipalities speak in a unified voice on critical projects in the region, the more immediate will be the relief for traffic," Smith said, adding that "we should strike while the iron is hot."
The comments by Page and Smith on the local level were echoed on the federal level by President Donald Trump last week, as the president called for reforms to the federal permitting process for federal infrastructure projects.
“We are here today to focus on solving one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately-needed infrastructure — and that is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build,” Trump said in a June 9 speech at the U.S. Department of Transportation. "Today it can take 10 years just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project. The excruciating wait time for permitting has inflicted enormous financial pain on cities and states — and has blocked many important projects from ever getting off the ground.”