Could you imagine going through life every day with near-debilitating, chronic back pain? Back pain is one of the most common ailments in America - it's estimated that 8% of all adults, or 16 million people, suffer from chronic back pain in the U.S. every year. If you've never experienced a back injury or pain, be thankful. Chronic back pain affects every aspect of a person's life, from participating in sports to limitations with everyday activities, like cooking dinner. In fact, many people with chronic back pain can't even make a reliable living and put food on the table. Almost 83 million workdays are lost every year due to choric back pain.
The inability to work and provide isn't just a physical issue - it can become an emotional one too. Many people suffering from chronic back pain also suffer from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, in the past, chronic back pain sufferers wanting to avoid addictive medications and invasive surgeries had few viable relief options. However, if you're suffering from a chronic back issue like sciatica, a pinched nerve, or a bulging disc, pain relief may be closer than you think.
Modern chiropractic care and, more specifically, a spinal decompression chiropractor in John's Island, SC, may be the long-term solution you need for chronic back pain.
A common misconception is that chiropractors only adjust your back and neck when, in fact, they treat the whole body with all-natural treatments. Here at Elite Healthcare, our doctors focus on your overall health, not just pain. We want to find and address the underlying causes of your symptoms. If you're unfamiliar with an integrative approach to medicine, this strategy may seem new. Our chiropractic care is less about putting a band-aid on the problem and more about finding a natural, long-term solution to your pain.
Fortunately, our experienced chiropractors provide the best in natural pain relief. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications mask the symptoms you're experiencing versus getting to the cause of your pain. Pain is often the result of your spine being out of alignment, which leads to nerve issues. Once your spine is back in alignment, the nerves function correctly again.
Because our chiropractic center offers a combination of different therapies and non-surgical treatments, we provide a comprehensive approach to healing. Depending on the extent of your back problems, spinal decompression therapy may be the answer to your chronic pain problems.
Invasive procedures, like back surgeries, often leave the patient racked with pain, long recovery times, and complications. Sometimes, the surgery doesn't work as intended, leaving the patient responsible for a therapy that didn't work correctly. As a non-invasive treatment, spinal decompression therapy can treat back and neck pain without needles, incisions, or harmful manipulations of the spine.
Getting back pain relief from surgery is far from guaranteed. However, because spinal decompression targets the underlying causes of your back pain, it's a much more effective long-term treatment. Spinal decompression is not a quick fix. When coupled with positive lifestyle changes like losing weight, you can maximize the pain-relieving benefits of spinal decompression.
Surgery of the back and spine requires the patient to be bedridden and uncomfortable for days and even weeks. Recovering from back surgery is no easy feat and often requires strong pain medications to help. Sometimes, back surgeries don't go as planned, causing complications and worse scenarios. Spinal decompression, on the other hand, is very effective and doesn't require much recovery time at all. Once your spinal decompression session is over, you'll probably be able to drive yourself home from our office.
One of the least talked about issues with back pain medications is that they only treat the pain, not the underlying causes. For many patients, relying on meds to relieve back pain fosters dependency on pain pills. Pain pill addiction is a very serious issue in the U.S., often leading patients down a dark path. With spinal decompression, you won't have to worry about taking pills for pain relief. That's because the root causes of your back pain are addressed, not just the symptoms.
If you were to look at the cost of surgery and subsequent years of prescription medication, you might be shocked. When compared to spinal decompression, surgery is a much more expensive treatment to consider. You've got to take the cost of surgery into account, but also the fact that you'll be forced to take time off work. By choosing spinal decompression therapy, you're choosing a safe, non-surgical treatment that doesn't require any time off work.
Spinal decompression relieves pressure on disrupted discs, causing them to retract back into place. This revolutionary treatment also lets oxygen, fluids, and nutrients re-enter your spinal discs, which provides additional healing.
We are happy to answer your questions, and help you find the services you need. Please message us to get started.
At Elite Healthcare Physical Medicine, we practice an integrated approach to pain relief and chiropractic care. Our goal is to restore your spine to its proper alignment, which speeds up your recovery time and prevents additional injuries. If chronic back pain has taken over your life, it's time to visit our chiropractic office for a thorough evaluation.
Ask yourself this: Have you been suffering from headaches and sleepless nights due to muscle strain? Is your ability to work and put food on the table compromised due to a pinched nerve? No amount of over-the-counter pain medication can provide a long-term fix for such an issue. Thankfully, our chiropractors have years of experience providing relief to patients just like yourself.
After a comprehensive exam, our doctor will create an individualized treatment plan tailored to your body. That way, we can address the full scope of your symptoms by correcting any root causes of your back pain.
From minor chiropractic adjustments to spinal decompression treatment, we'll find the solution that your back and body need to heal correctly. If you're ready to get back on the road to better health, we're here to help every step of the way. Contact our Elite Healthcare Physical Medicine today to get started.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While most Lowcountry counties woke up to a wind chill advisory for the second morning in a row on Christmas Day, a big warmup is on the way.The National Weather Service issued the advisory Saturday night for Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort Counties until 10 a.m. with expected wind chill values as low as zero far inland and as low as 8 to 14 degrees along the coast.But winds weren’t as strong on Sunday morning as they had been on Saturday, and wind chill values across the ...
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While most Lowcountry counties woke up to a wind chill advisory for the second morning in a row on Christmas Day, a big warmup is on the way.
The National Weather Service issued the advisory Saturday night for Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort Counties until 10 a.m. with expected wind chill values as low as zero far inland and as low as 8 to 14 degrees along the coast.
But winds weren’t as strong on Sunday morning as they had been on Saturday, and wind chill values across the Lowcountry ranged from 21 in Moncks Corner, Kingstree and McClellanville to 15 on Johns Island and Kiawah Island.
A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chills. This will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken. Use caution while traveling outside. Wear appropriate clothing, a hat and gloves.
Locations across the Lowcountry were within a few degrees of all-time record lows on Christmas Eve morning after an unusually strong Arctic cold front moved in Friday.
If you are ready for a warmup, however, there is good news in the forecast. Live 5 Meteorologist Chris Holtzman said temperatures will begin rising on Christmas Day to a high around 40. That will start a warming trend over the course of the week that will bring highs into the 70s by next weekend, he said.
Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said Saturday’s record low at the Charleston International Airport stands at 16 degrees while the record downtown stands at 20. The Lowcountry woke up on Christmas Eve morning to temperatures just above those figures, but not by much.
Temperatures around the area as of 6 a.m. Saturday ranged from 20 degrees in McClellanville and Kiawah Island down to 17 in Kingstree and 16 in Orangeburg.
The wind chill, or “feels like” temperature, however, dropped those figures to single digits for many areas. Summerville and Georgetown reported a wind chill of 7, while Goose Creek, Johns Island and Kiawah Island listed a 6-degree wind chill. North Charleston’s stood at 5 and in Walterboro and Orangeburg, it felt like just 3 degrees outside.
The drastic drop in temperatures from Friday morning’s high of the low 50s followed the combination of an Arctic cold front which chilled most of the nation and gusty winds driving the single-digit wind chills.
Experts advised those traveling by car this weekend to keep their phones charged, pack extra clothes and blankets and bring extra food in case they become stranded.
They also urged people to bring pets inside and provide adequate shelter for livestock, and to protect outside faucets and pipes before the cold temperatures arrive.
The National Weather Service said people should avoid outside activities if possible, but that those who must go outside should dress warmly in coats, gloves and hats.
In the Lowcountry, Walsh said the winds will begin to calm down on Christmas Eve with sunny skies and highs only in the upper 30s, about 25 degrees below average for late December.
Low temperatures will be in the 20s again Saturday night.
Sovine said Sunday will be the coldest Christmas morning since 1989, the year Hurricane Hugo devastated the Charleston area. It will also likely be the third-coldest Christmas in 85 years, he said.
Christmas Day should be dry and sunny but the high temperature will only reach the low to mid-40s.
The team declared Friday and Saturday “First Alert Weather Days” this past Sunday to alert people to the big drop in temperatures.
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Nearly 200 historic trees on Johns Island were on the chopping block at a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Dec. 7, and the debate surrounding their removal is stirring up questions about preserving the island’s natural habitat while planning for booming population growth at the city’s outer edges.Developers requested permission to cut down 193 “grand” trees across two developments in cases heard before the board, which reviews projects that need special exceptions to city ordinances.The grand c...
Nearly 200 historic trees on Johns Island were on the chopping block at a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Dec. 7, and the debate surrounding their removal is stirring up questions about preserving the island’s natural habitat while planning for booming population growth at the city’s outer edges.
Developers requested permission to cut down 193 “grand” trees across two developments in cases heard before the board, which reviews projects that need special exceptions to city ordinances.
The grand classification means the trees are more than 24 inches in diameter, likely indicating that they are well over 100 years old. As a result, they are protected by city ordinance. Not only are the trees considered an aesthetic trademark of the once entirely rural island but they are also a key component of the area’s ecosystem and a natural flood prevention tool.
“The trees help us for resilience, absorbing water, supplying shade and wildlife habitat,” John Zlogar, chair of the community group Johns Island Task Force, told The Post and Courier. He is one of nearly 30 residents who submitted comments to the zoning board in favor of saving as many trees as possible amid development.
The board ultimately approved both tree removal plans with some caveats.
Developers of the first project, a 71-home planned community near Fenwick Hall Plantation, requested permission to cut down 21 trees. The zoning appeals board reduced that to 15. They also stipulated that the developers of the property must hire an arborist to create a protection plan for the remaining trees and plant 151 new native trees with at least a 2½-inch diameter.
The developers argued that after having an arborist evaluate the trees on the property, the ones slated for removal were already in poor health.
“We designed the proposed concept plan which ultimately preserves 36 grand trees and impacts grand trees only with a health grade ‘D’ or lower,” wrote Jenna Nelson in a letter to the zoning board. Nelson leads the development’s engineering team, Bowman Consulting Group.
If those trees fell naturally, however, they would have returned organic matter to the ecosystem, promoting other forms of plant life that provide food for animals and insects, said Philip Dustan, an ecology professor at the College of Charleston.
“When (the tree) falls down. it slowly rots and releases its nutrients,” he said.
Tree removals at the second project on Johns Island, called Wooddale, were also approved by the board. Instead of removing 172 trees as originally requested, the developers revised the plan to remove 124. They must also develop a protection plan for the remaining trees and plant about 500 native 2½-inch or wider trees. They also have plans to establish a conservation easement along the southern portion of the property, meaning it will be protected from development moving forward.
“Multiple layout alternatives have been explored by following the natural contours of the site by placing most of the density in the highest area to minimize the cut and fill needed as well as minimize the tree and environmental impacts,” wrote Jason Hutchinson, an engineer for the development with firm Thomas & Hutton.
The Wooddale project has been in the works since 2013 because of a lawsuit that hinged on disagreements between the city and the developer about how to zone the development. As proposed, it includes single-family homes, offices, an assisted-living facility and other amenities, according to site plans. Because it is south of the island’s urban growth boundary, it is subject to stricter limitations than the northern tip of the island. The boundary was established decades ago as a way to preserve the island’s rural origins.
The Woodale tract sits not too far away from Charleston Executive Airport where conservationists secured a win earlier this year. The Charleston County Aviation Authority signed off on a deal to place just under 100 acres in a legally binding conservation easement. An agreement with Lowcountry Land Trust will keep 94 acres from ever being developed there.
As growth continues within the boundary’s limits, some residents are trying to advocate for developments with as little ecological impact as possible on the southern side of the boundary line.
Dustan, who lives near Wooddale, is not pleased with the upcoming development. The most ecologically sensitive solution, he said, would be to build elevated homes on pilings and keep all the existing trees intact.
By removing the native trees, the surrounding area is robbed of parts of a centuries-old root network, which can affect the health of surrounding trees.
“A lot of the trees that you see are actually related to each other,” he said.
Although the development follows the city’s storm water standards, Dustan is concerned that runoff created by the new development will overflow nearby Burden Creek during major ran events.
After hurricane Ian came through in September, water was about a foot below breaching the banks of the creek, he said.
“The curious thing is ... if we keep building like this, we might start flooding the new communities, too,” he said.
Johns Island is seeing a massive influx of growth in ways that is not possible in more developed areas of the city. As a result, the island is seeing a patchwork of new developments separated by stretches of farmland and forests. Longtime residents want to see the city use modern planning tools to lessen the impact of new development on the environment and flooding.
“The area inside the urban growth boundary is only 20 percent of the island, let’s contain the growth in that 20 percent to make sure it’s smart,” Zlogar said.
A citywide water plan, which is currently in the works, will look at the city as a whole to see what types of flood mitigation are needed most and where they would have the most impact. Instead of tackling flood concerns on a project-by-project basis, the city is looking at ways to stop development that increases flooding and identify which flood projects need to be prioritized first.
Instead of trying to drain water as quickly as possible, the city’s main strategy is shifting toward effectively storing floodwater, such as in detention basins, and letting it slowly disperse. One advantage of this approach is that it helps prevent a sinking effect called subsidence. Shifting ground levels due to the movement of groundwater threaten buildings’ foundations and worsen flood risk. Forrest are a natural asset in this type of flood prevention, Dustan said.
“The best way to solve a problem is preventing it from happening in the first place,” he said.
The water plan will be worked into a new citywide zoning ordinance that Charleston officials are also currently drafting.
In the new version, officials want the zoning maps — the guide for what can get built where — to be based on elevation. High ground near major roadways will be fair game for high-density development, in most cases. Low-lying areas and wetlands will be restricted to little or no use at all. The ground rules for development will vary in each area of town. It’s an opportunity to set the framework for how Johns Island can grow in a sustainable way.
As these changes come down the pipeline, Johns Island residents will also have a new advocate in City Hall.
From 2010 to 2020, census data shows the island’s population within Charleston city limits doubled from nearly 5,300 residents to almost 12,000. As a result, in recently approved City Council redistricting maps, Johns Island will get its own council member for the first time in 2024.
How the city approaches tree preservation will need to be tailored to Johns Island, too, Zlogar said. The existing tree ordinance was designed with more developed areas of the city, such as the peninsula, in mind. There, developers are typically requesting to remove one or two trees in an already built-out neighborhood. But on Johns Island, developers are purchasing lots with upwards of 100 acres of land.
“We have a tree ordinance but to my knowledge there is no forest ordinance and that is the problem,” Zlogar said.
Every tree removed affects the overall ecosystem of a forest. And replanting smaller trees, even of the same variety, doesn’t have the same ecological benefit.
“It’s the equivalent of tearing down an apartment building and putting up a woodshed,” he said.
The other concern from Dustan and other community members is that the tree ordinance does not take a holistic view of the island. Saving contiguous swaths of forest is more effective strategy than saving groups of trees on a lot-by-lot basis. Having interrupted clusters of forest reduces storm water absorption and splits up wildlife habitats as well.
“We’re not seeing the forest for the trees,” Dustan said.
Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.
After a decade of booming population growth, Johns Island may get its own representative on Charleston City Council.But making that change could cost a sitting council member their seat.The island is now in District 5, which also spans much of outer West Ashley. It is represented by Councilman Karl Brady, who lives in West Ashley.Two newly proposed City Council district maps...
After a decade of booming population growth, Johns Island may get its own representative on Charleston City Council.
But making that change could cost a sitting council member their seat.
The island is now in District 5, which also spans much of outer West Ashley. It is represented by Councilman Karl Brady, who lives in West Ashley.
Two newly proposed City Council district maps make Johns Island its own district without any extension into West Ashley. That means the City Council member to represent it would have to live on Johns Island.
“There is no one on council right now that drives our roads every day, sends their kids to school here, works here or lives here,” said John Zlogar, chairman of the Johns Island Task Force.
The group was established in 2013 to bring together residents and local officials to address Johns Island-specific issues.
While Zlogar said he has no issue with Brady, he said he would like to have a council member who can put their sole focus on the island.
“We will feel like we have someone that has our voice,” he said.
The island, which is partially within the city of Charleston and partially within unincorporated Charleston County, has deep roots in agriculture and the city’s Black history. Several Black family farms have run their businesses on the island since Reconstruction, when formerly enslaved laborers took over former plantations.
An “urban growth boundary,” established across the island limits where agricultural land must be protected and where development is allowed. Most of the city’s side of the island is located within the urban growth boundary and as a result has seen a massive influx of residents looking for a lower cost of living than the city’s core. Between 2010 and 2020, District 5, the district with Johns Island and West Ashley, grew a staggering 154 percent.
Charleston Chief Innovation Officer Tracy McKee has led the city through the redistricting process three times in her career. Factoring in population growth between 2010 and 2020, McKee and city staff have been in the process of redrawing the council district boundaries for months.
“Four council members live on the peninsula, but we’ve had more growth in Berkeley County on Daniel Island and on Johns Island,” McKee said.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population and demographic data that governments use to redraw voting districts. In 2020, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Council voted last summer to delay redistricting until after the fall 2021 election.
Officials try to balance the population size of each district as well as their geographic spread. In Charleston, for example, it would be impractical to include Daniel Island and outer West Ashley in the same district.
Initially, city staff put out one proposal in July. That plan kept all sitting council members within their current districts. None of them were at risk of losing their seat or having to run against each other to keep their seat. But the proposal split Johns island into three districts that included other areas of the city as well.
The map was met with some criticism for the wide span of geography each district covered. Districts were stretched from the peninsula far into West Ashley and District 11, covered parts of West Ashley, James Island and Johns Island.
The League of Women Voters published a commentary in The Post and Courier calling for more compact districts.
“Drawing districts to protect incumbents means the maps defy logic in many places. James Island remains divided into three different districts, one with very dubious contiguity as it crosses briefly over West Ashley and onto the peninsula. Johns Island, now all in District 5, will be divided into three different districts, diluting the voices of those residents,” the league wrote.
The league now supports the new proposals, mainly because the districts don’t stretch as far across the city.
“They keep communities together. These really prioritize citizen interests,” said Leslie Skardon, the director of advocacy for the League of Women Voters.
On Aug. 28, city staff unveiled two alternative maps that took some of that feedback into consideration. The two new maps, referred to as 1A and 1B, are almost identical except for their effects on two current peninsula districts.
Both maps make Johns Island its own district.
To create the Johns Island district, city staff proposed two options. They can move District 3 or District 6 off of the West Side of the peninsula to only cover West Ashley. If District 3 moves off, District 6 will absorb the portion of the West Side that is currently in District 3.
Because District 3 Councilman Jason Sakran lives on the peninsula, he would be drawn out of his district. He would have to run for District 6 against fellow Councilman William Dudley Gregorie. But that seat is not up for election until 2025. In the meantime, depending on when council decides to make the maps effective, a special election would determine who represents the new West Ashley-only version of District 3.
The other scenario would be that District 6 would move off of its portion of the West Side of the peninsula. In that case, Gregorie, who lives also in the West Side, would be drawn into Councilman Sakran’s District 3. Because District 3 is up for election in 2023, the two would face off sooner.
Sakran said he would be OK with running against Gregorie in 2023, but he is most favorable of the original map that keeps all council members in their respective districts.
“You are overhauling peoples’ elected representatives to the tune of 40 percent of the city’s population,” Sakran said of the new proposals.
According to the city, if the original proposal is accepted, about 30 percent of the city’s population will end up in new council districts. If either of the alternatives are chosen, that number will move up to 39 percent.
Another factor in the process is the establishment of minority-majority districts. Districts 4 and 7 on the all three map proposals are majority-minority districts. They cover the upper peninsula and part of West Ashley, respectively. When the maps were last redrawn in 2010, the city went from having five majority-minority districts to three. Now the city is guaranteed to have two. As demographics shift, it’s difficult to group minority voters together and ensure their voice is in the majority in any part of the city, McKee said.
City Council will review the map proposals at its Sept. 13 meeting. No action will be taken. A public hearing will be held in the fall. Residents can view the maps and leave comments online the city’s redistricting “Open Town Hall” webpage at www.charleston-sc.gov/Redistricting2020. Email comments are accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.
NORTH CHARLESTON — A man provided Charleston County deputies with a different name before he took off running across several lanes of a major road and jumping from an overpass.Kelvin Cole, 56, died Oct. 28 after being struck by multiple cars on Interstate 26. Investigators later determined he had active arrest warrants from Charleston County’s Family Court and the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.Cole, who lived and worked as a welder in Johns Island, was riding in the passenger seat of a car...
NORTH CHARLESTON — A man provided Charleston County deputies with a different name before he took off running across several lanes of a major road and jumping from an overpass.
Kelvin Cole, 56, died Oct. 28 after being struck by multiple cars on Interstate 26. Investigators later determined he had active arrest warrants from Charleston County’s Family Court and the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
Cole, who lived and worked as a welder in Johns Island, was riding in the passenger seat of a car when a deputy stopped it for alleged traffic violations. The car’s 31-year-old driver was ultimately given a warning.
Attempts to reach Cole’s family Nov. 2 were unsuccessful.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released an incident report Nov. 2, several days after Cole’s death. It provides new details on what preceded the moment he ran from the deputy.
Deputy Tanner Buller was patrolling around 10:30 p.m. near Stall and Mazyck roads in North Charleston when he noticed a white SUV swerve several times from its lane, the report states. The driver also failed to use a turn signal when changing lanes.
Buller, who has worked in law enforcement for five years, had a deputy-in-training with him during the stop. He flipped on his blue lights and the SUV pulled over onto the Ashley Phosphate Road overpass, which sits atop I-26.
Buller spoke with the car’s driver through the passenger-side window. The driver denied he had been drinking, but Buller wrote he could smell marijuana and alcohol coming from the vehicle’s passenger side. The car’s passenger, later identified as Cole, told the deputy his name was Raymond Brown.
Buller had both men get out of their car so he could search them. The driver admitted he’d smoked marijuana earlier in the day, the report states.
When Cole exited the car, Buller saw a beer can near the passenger seat. Buller found Cole’s driver’s license and noticed it did not match the name he’d provided the deputy.
Buller tried to detain Cole “but he pulled away and fled on foot” across Ashley Phosphate Road, the report states. The deputy chased Cole while trying to avoid traffic.
He repeatedly asked Cole to stop but the man “eventually jumped over the guardrail,” the report states. Buller saw Cole’s hands “grabbing the rail for a brief period” before he appeared to let go and fall onto I-26, the report states.
Buller never drew his weapon, said Andrew Knapp, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman. The deputy remains on duty. In addition to conducting its own internal review, the Sheriff’s Office also requested State Law Enforcement Division investigate the incident, Knapp said.
Investigators searched Cole’s name in a federal database and found he had an active warrant with the probation department, as well as three bench warrants with Charleston County’s Family Court.
Cole was the defendant in an ongoing child support case filed in 2016, court records show.
He was placed on a year of probation in February 2020 after pleading guilty in Charleston County to a forgery charge. Cole’s probation sentence would not be terminated until he paid all associated fees, said Anita Dantzler, a department spokeswoman.
Cole owed nearly $2,500 to the department, records show.
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.“We just have to ...
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.
That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.
Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.
“We just have to be willing to move forward and do it,” Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt said. “Every day I get more and more calls.”
The project would create a 9½-mile, four-lane road from the current end of I-526 in West Ashley, to Johns Island and then onto James Island with a connection to the end of the James Island connector at Folly Road.
Most of the road would be elevated, with a proposed speed limit between 35 and 45 mph.
The marginally better cost estimate was delivered by S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall in a letter to the county. The previous price tag was estimated at $2.35 billion, while the new estimate that followed a consultant’s study came in at $2.2 billion.
“I think initially there was some thought that maybe we have overinflated the numbers,” Hall said.
When the higher cost estimate came out in May, Bradly Taggart, co-founder of Charlestonians for I-526, told County Council members that a temporary spike in commodity prices was likely to blame. He predicted that “we could be looking at a project that costs half as much in six months’ time as the market rebalances.”
Instead, the estimate dropped by less than 7 percent.
Hall said the estimated $150 million reduction came mainly from reducing the cost of potential “risk elements” — surprises during construction, such as unplanned conflicts with utilities or unexpected poor soil conditions — and partly from reducing expected cost inflation.
“This estimate has built into it every possible contingency for things that could go wrong,” said Honeycutt, who said she thinks the actual cost will be lower.
Hall asked the county to develop “a financial plan that is rational and realistic” for the entire road project, which would be required in order to get final approval for an environmental review from the federal government. She also asked the county to approve $150 million in preliminary work, with the county paying half that cost, to keep the plan moving forward.
Honeycutt and Council Chairman Teddie Pryor both said they favor a new half-percent sales tax referendum as the best way to pay the cost. County voters previously approved two such sales tax increases, mostly to fund road projects.
Pryor said if there were another referendum, it could be entirely dedicated to funding the Mark Clark Extension. The most recent sales tax increase, following a 2016 referendum, was expected to raise $1.89 billion for specified road projects in the county, over 25 years.
The county received the new cost estimate for the Mark Clark Extension on Dec. 2, a spokesperson said, and has not had time to discuss it. The earlier higher estimate was delivered to the county in May.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Councilman Henry Darby said at the time. “I would never, ever go with this.”
The Mark Clark Extension has lots of support, including the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the city of Charleston and the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, but also lots of opposition. The Coastal Conservation League said in May that the multibillion-dollar price tag “is a perfect opportunity for Charleston County Council to walk away from this project.”
A community organization called Nix 526 has also been fighting the extension, and Charleston Waterkeeper and the S.C. Wildlife Federation have raised objections.
Supporters say it’s necessary for traffic relief and possible hurricane evacuations, while opponents say it will increase development on Johns Island and harm the environment while providing little traffic relief at great cost.
New roads tend to provide traffic relief for a time but also spur development. The existing portion of I-526 from North Charleston to Mount Pleasant initially provided traffic relief and a new hurricane evacuation option, but it also accelerated development in northern Mount Pleasant and on Daniel Island. The state is currently planning to spend about $4 billion to widen that part of the interstate.
Here are some numbers to put $1.78 billion in context:
The S.C. Department of Transportation assumes that if the Mark Clark Extension project goes forward, litigation could delay it by two or three years.
Pryor blamed opponents for the rising costs of the project, and said it could have been built for far less years or decades ago. In 2015, the cost estimate was $725 million.
Unlike the even-more-expensive plans to widen and improve the existing sections of I-526 — for about $7 billion — the state in 2019 limited its contribution to the Mark Clark Extension project to $420 million and the county agreed to finance the rest.
“Our interstate program is focused on upgrading our existing interstates,” said Hall, and those plans are focused on moving freight and aiding commerce. The state is pursuing plans to widen all or portions of interstates 526, 26 and 95, and to redesign multiple interchanges.
County Council is expected to discuss options for the Mark Clark Extension at a future meeting. Hall did not put a deadline on her request for action.