City of Charleston asks for I-526 project control

By Stefanie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It's back to the trenches for a controversial project that can't seem to take off.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation voted against taking control of the Interstate 526 project in November. After that, the 526 expansion plan went back into the hands of Charleston County.

On Tuesday night in a special meeting, the City of Charleston will pitch to have the baton of the project passed off to it.

"We cannot miss this opportunity. It's now or never; we got to do it," said City of Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley. "If we don't build the highway now we will likely never have another opportunity and our community will have massive gridlocks throughout many parts of our community."

Riley has put the pedal to the metal in his pitch for control of a project that's been in the works for over 30 years.

"We will lose the $585 million, a huge amount of money. It's gone forever," Riley said about the funds the State Infrastructure Bank has pledged toward the completion project.

But not everyone is going along for the ride.

"It's too much money for this project and I think there are projects even in this area that would benefit the entire state to be spending so much time, energy, and money on this particular project is irresponsible," said Project Manager for the Coastal Conservation League, Jake Libaire.

The Coastal Conservation League is one of many interest groups against the expansion of Interstate 526.

"We aren't just opposed to everything and we actually provided an alternative to the DOT in 2010 that didn't involve a beltway or new bridges to Johns Island," Libaire said.

The meeting Tuesday night will be held at the Charleston County Council Chambers. No vote will be taken at Tuesday's meeting -- just presentations to the County from the City of Charleston and opponents of the project.

"You know in the Charleston area we do have to build bridges. We have creeks and water courses that have to be crossed so our people can be moved," Riley said.

A vote from County Council on the future of the 526 project could take place as soon as next week.