News Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
April 25, 2016
Chris DeScherer, SELC, (843) 720-5270
Mike Mather, SELC Communications, (434) 977-4090 or [email protected]
Natalie Olson, CCL, (843) 723-8035
CHARLESTON – Charleston County officials should make a play to keep the $420 million in contested Mark Clark Extension funds and use the cash for other local transportation projects that would do more to ease traffic jams and improve public safety.
The Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Center proposed that plan today in a letter to Charleston County Council Members. The letter outlined a path to reallocate the Mark Clark funds for much-needed improvements to the existing transportation system, which could include projects like a West Ashley flyover at 17 and Main Road and bus rapid transit along the I-26 corridor. The Mark Clark agreement allows the agencies involved – the county, the State Infrastructure Bank and SCDOT – to fund other projects with the money set aside for the extension, if the agencies agree, said SELC’s Chris DeScherer.
The SIB gave Charleston County leaders a March 30 deadline to either raise the $300 million needed to cover the Mark Clark extension shortfall, or to come up with a concrete funding plan to do so. Without that, the SIB could move the $420 million it earmarked for the extension into projects elsewhere in the state.
Charleston County officials have indicated they do not have the money, and have not developed a specific funding plan. DeScherer said the proposal sent to county leaders today could convince the SIB to keep that $420 million in the area.
“That’s an extraordinary sum of money that has been tied up a decade rather than being used to fund critical transportation projects in Charleston,” DeScherer said. “We’re putting forth a plan to keep that money right here in Charleston, and to invest in projects that would make a real difference to drivers and commuters.”
The SIB is set to consider Charleston County’s funding plan later this week. Mayor John Tecklenburg has suggested making the extension a toll road, but has offered no specifics.
“What the county leaders should be tackling is a plan to keep the money in our region and use it for these projects which will cost less and be done sooner, while doing more to protect Charleston’s environment,” said Natalie Olson of the League.