I-526 extension hearings hailed

Mayor-elect Bill Woolsey says he’s not sure if the proposed road project would benefit James Island

James Island Mayor-Elect Bill Woolsey welcomed the news that the S.C. Department of Transportation will hold more public hearings on the latest proposal to extend Interstate 526 through the island.

Woolsey said he’s not fully digested the new plan, but his initial feelings have been mostly “negative.”

“I’m not sure it’s an improvement,” Woolsey said. “In my view, it’s very expensive and seems to provide very little benefit to James Island.”

Transportation Secretary Buck Limehouse said this weekend that additional public hearings will be held on James Island and Johns Island and in West Ashley. The dates have not been announced.

When the plan was unveiled at the end of July, two public hearings at Burke High School, which is in peninsular Charleston, were announced.

The extension would connect I-526 in West Ashley with the James Island connector to downtown Charleston.

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James Island Town Council has twice approved resolutions opposing I-526 coming to the island, although those resolutions were made when the extension was planned as an interstate.

Rather than an interstate, the extension would be a parkway with several intersections, traffic lights and 35 to 45 mph speed limits, according to the latest proposal.

Woolsey said he sees no indication the new parkway will relieve traffic congestion that already frustrates drivers and residents on the island. He also said he’s concerned about the impact of four parkway intersections between Riverland Drive and Folly Road.

The new plan also would add a River Road intersection on Johns Island. Johns Island residents have been divided on proposals to extend I-526 across the island.

Limehouse did not respond to messages left Saturday and Sunday. He told The Post and Courier last week that he was concerned the new intersections might cause more traffic by spurring new development. He also questioned whether the lower speed limits are realistic.

A majority of those who responded to an informal poll on The Post and Courier’s website favored the new plan. Of 1,086 respondents, 59 percent voted yes.

by David Munday Post and Courier

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