Majority of Charleston residents: No Mark Clark interstate extension
More than half of the Charleston-area residents who sent public comments on the proposed Mark Clark Extension were against the project, dealing another blow to the on-again, off-again road proposal that would carry a high price tag for a limited — if any — benefit.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a summary of the more than 2,600 comments submitted as part of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. A majority pointed to the project’s many shortcomings.
The project is expected to cost at least $772 million with little evidence it will fix traffic problems. The eight-mile road extension would destroy more than 31 acres of valuable wetlands and open rural Johns Island to more sprawling development.
The comments show Charleston drivers don’t believe this is the solution to untie the area’s traffic jams, and they’re right. The cost is too high, the benefit too little, and the environmental damage too great.Chris DeScherer, Managing Attorney of SELC’s Charleston Office
For decades, the project has been bogged down by a lack of funding and a lack of support. The state has agreed to pay $420 million, but Charleston County has been unable to put together a bona fide funding plan to cover the shortfall.
“The comments show Charleston drivers don’t believe this is the solution to untie the area’s traffic jams, and they’re right,” said Chris DeScherer, the managing attorney of SELC’s Charleston office. “The cost is too high, the benefit too little, and the environmental damage too great.”
Jenny Brennan, a science and policy analyst in SELC’s Charleston office, said the construction plans dreamed up decades ago do not take into account the reality of the area’s rapidly rising sea level.
“Several portions of the proposed new route would be underwater, or at least flood prone, with even a small amount of sea level rise,” she said. “The South Carolina Department of Transportation did not consider that risk.”
SELC has advocated for cost-effective mass-transit alternatives that reduce traffic, development sprawl, and environmental impacts. Connecting Charleston to the Lowcountry Rapid Transit System, the state’s first true mass transit system, is one promising solution. SELC has also urged state transportation planners to put the earmarked money towards roadway fixes that would relieve traffic congestion, including a flyover from West Ashley to Johns Island where traffic is notoriously tied up.