Midlands officials got the go-aheard Thursday to look at new ways to pay for the long-delayed new entry into Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
The search comes after the State Transportation Commssion gave the green light to the effort instead of keeping the project in limbo due to lack of money in its coffers.
This gives us a chance, Lexington County Council chairman Bill Banning said. Our hands are no longer tied.
The decision opens the way for the new interchange on I-26 and 3.2-mile road into the airport to be part of a package of improvements that would be paid for through a proposed one-cent sales tax increase. A push is taking shape to submit that package to county voters for approval as soon as fall 2014, with revenue from it allocated, in stages, to whats known as the Airport Connector.
The tax plan may be vital for the project.
Commission members warned state aid is unlikely to be available soon for nearly $350 million in major road upgrades wanted across South Carolina.
In no sense are we saying we have a mechanism for funding it, commissioner J. Craig Forrest said of the Airport Connector.
But other commission members said its important to allow flexibility.
Its off the dusty shelf, chairman Eddie Adams said. It allows these project to be out there on their own.
The commission decision was a relief for local political and business officials concerned that the panel instead would include the Airport Connector among a series of projects shelved indefinitely.
It gives us a lift and the ability to move forward, Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre said.
The project has been delayed for nearly a decade.
It is intended to give cargo haulers and airline passengers easier access to the airport, replacing travel along congested one-mile stretch of Airport Boulevard.
Local officials have amassed nearly $14 million for a project that may cost as much as $80 million.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.