Monday, April 29, 2024 Blog · News

Road projects in our backyards and on the ballot

by Emmi Palenbaum

Decisions around unnecessary and overpriced South Carolina road projects are looming. Three major proposed highway projects continue to pose threats to the health of communities and natural resources along the South Carolina coast: the Mark Clark/I-526 Extension in Charleston County, the I-73 Extension, and the SC Highway 22 Extension (formerly known as the Southern Evacuation Lifeline), both in Horry County. This summer and fall, Conservation League staff will work to continue to advocate against these harmful road projects. 

 

A Bad Deal for Charleston County Taxpayers

Over the years, I-526 has remained at the top of the Conservation League’s priorities. The extension would expand the existing interstate through multiple communities in West Ashley, along the edge of Johns Island, and across James Island, terminating on Calhoun Street on the Peninsula.   

This outdated, overpriced, and unnecessary project would destroy 30 acres of wetlands, 20 acres of James Island County Park, and displace dozens of homes and businesses along the route. The project would have particularly severe impacts on historic African American settlement communities such as Ferguson Village and Cross-Cut on James Island. It would also escalate rural gentrification on Johns Island, 80% of which remains rural today, despite increased development along the Maybank Highway Corridor. To make things even worse, the cost has ballooned to $2.3 billion, over 80% of which would fall on taxpayers in Charleston County through a proposed sales tax referendum planned for November, draining critical funding away from other more pressing priorities throughout the county.  

 

In the North Coast: Fix it First, Don’t Make it Worse

The Conservation League has advocated against I-73 and the SC Highway 22 Extension for decades. The negative effects from these costly and unnecessary highways would be permanent and far-reaching. The proposed routes would destroy hundreds of acres of protected wetlands in the Little Pee Dee Heritage Preserve and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. It would also cut through farmland in Dillon, Marion and Horry counties, and through communities like Bucksport and Burgess, compounding with existing flooding issues.  

Horry County is discussing a referendum for a 25-year transportation tax to be on the ballot in November. This would raise $2 billion in sales tax revenue, with the bulk of funds going towards new roads instead of improving existing roads that are in need of repair. 

This winter, Conservation League staff worked with partners to host multiple meetings to help community members understand the risks and problematic details associated with these projects, and encourage them to speak out. Community members submitted comments raising their concerns, but despite public input, the sales tax commission is planning to keep these controversial projects on the list to submit to Horry County Council for their review in May. 


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