Charleston Landowners Hurt by I-526 Delay

October 28, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveCharleston County Council on Oct. 19 made no substantial changes to the finance committee’s earlier decision regarding the Mark Clark expressway extension.

As a result, the state Department of Transportion will be asked to further study plans for completion of the I-526 project, in addition to Alternative G, including:

  • Improving existing roads within the scope of the project;
  • Adopting the proposal submitted at the Oct. 14 finance committee meeting entailing the completion of the project without the James Island leg; and
  • Investigate additional options, with an understanding that all continued analysis should bear in mind legal and financial constraints.

It’s believed that the plan proposed by DOT is dead. Too many citizens are against it and its benefits are questioned.

A full expressway would have cost at least $600 million. While the roadway proposed was the least expensive, it still would have cost $489 million.

And although the State Infrastructure Bank will bear most of the cost, the county will have to find more than $60 million for its share, money it doesn’t have.

In the meantime, there are a number of area citizens who are tired of the back and forth and just want to be done with the whole thing. They own property over which the Mark Clark extension would be built.

The question posed for years now has been “will their property be acquired by the state or not?”

Now it seems that with the county’s new request, a decision on whether to proceed will be delayed another year or more.

Many of these citizens have remarked that they cannot move forward with their lives. The state is waiting for the county to make a decision before it acquires the property. In the meantime, the prospect, but not certainty, of condemnation makes it impossible to sell the property. Who is going to pay a market price for such property?

And the woes of the affected citizens are exacerbated by the poor economic climate. In one development in the way of a proposed route, two of the nine houses are in foreclosure while some of the other property owners are refinancing or attempting to, according to one citizen.

At the finance committee meeting, Charleston County Council asked DOT to look a extending the Mark Clark from it present terminus on Highway 17, across West Ashley and onto Johns Island, but terminating at the Stono River.

The highway would not extend onto James Island as proposed by DOT. However, it would extend to River Road, which would be widened to the Betsy Kerrison. View the PDF to see the route proposed by DOT (in yellow) and that suggested by the County Council (hatched black)

The DOT spokesman stated that it could take 12 to 18 months to complete. He also warned that the opportunity for funding could be lost if the original purpose of the Mark Clark extension – to enhance mobility in a regional manner – was not to be fulfilled.

He could have added that the DOT was putting the hard work on the county to make up its mind on proceeding with the Mark Clark, or else it risks losing the funding opportunity.

It should be noted that the present head of the DOT is Chip “Buck” Limehouse, a native of Charleston. His term ends soon and his replacement may not have the same warm feelings regarding the region.

The DOT presentation covered the results of the public hearings it conducted in relation to the Mark Clark extension. The presentation document can be seen here.

As evident in the document, 1,657 individuals made comments. Of that total, 1,033 indicated opposition to the proposal, 522 support and 102 had only suggestion and comments.