UPDATE: $138 Million Likely to be Approved for I-526 Completion
The S.C. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board will likely vote today to approve $138 million for the completion of I-526.
*** Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect information that was released to the media in advance of Friday's conference meeting, as 24-hour notice of the vote had not been given prior to Thursday's vote by the State Transportation Infrastructure Board.
While many residents of the Charleston area remain divided on the completion of I-526, officials in Columbia appear to be pushing forward.
The S.C. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board will call a vote on approving an additional $138 million for the completion of the project, for which $420 million has already been set aside.
That vote is scheduled for a phone conference meeting Friday afternoon, and it will essentially be a do-over for the board, according to State Transportation Infrastructure Bank staff member Debra Rountree.
"There was a motion and it was unanimous," Rountree said. "But the legal advice was that there had to be 24-hours notice, so they called another meeting for today."
House Speaker Bobby Harrell's office went ahead and issued a statement Thursday after the initial unanimous vote praising the board.
"This vote has been a longtime coming and something much desired by our Lowcountry residents," Harrell said in a statement released by his office. "After such a long fight and after overcoming so many difficult challenges, I felt it was important to the people of the Lowcountry, in recognition of the support they have given, to personally attend this vote in favor of completing 526."
Harrell's Communications Director Greg Foster said Friday morning that a clerical error was responsible for the issue not appearing on Thursday's meeting agenda, and that since the I-526 completion has been such a contentious issue, the board called another meeting for Friday with the funding on the agenda, "out of an abundance of caution."
"There was an unanimous vote yesterday to give an approval today on a conference call," Foster said. "It's like in the legislature when something has multiple readings."
Foster said board members called the second meeting to hold another vote on the measure so that someone couldn't later challenge the vote in court on the grounds that public notice of the vote wasn't given.
Originally contemplated as far back as 1968, and most recently included among the projects included in the last half-cent transportation sales tax program, Harrell said completing the interstate loop has been one of his top priorities.
"Let’s be clear, this isn’t some new-fangled project or idea," Harrell said "I-526 was always meant to be completed and the people of the Lowcountry have well voiced their intent on this issue – they want this road finished."
Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl attempted to give Charleston County residents another opportunity to voice their opinions on the project earlier this week, but his proposal to add a non-binding referendum asking voter whether they supported completing I-526 was voted down by the County Council Tuesday night.
Editor's note: This story has been modified from its original version to reflect the correct status of the project and the date of the vote.