PROJECT ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESS
The environmental review process is a crucial component of any major infrastructure effort. As part of the Palmetto Commerce Interchange project, Charleston County will engage relevant agencies and stakeholders, in addition to the general public, to ensure decisions are made in the best overall public interest.
Charleston County, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), will consider the need for: safe and efficient transportation; social, economic, and environmental impacts; and national, state and local environmental protection goals Under the NEPA process, an extensive environmental review and analysis is performed of the project area and to examine reasonable alternatives for the project. The environmental review is done in order to avoid, minimize or mitigate environmental impacts and to ensure public participation is incorporated into the decision-making process. Agency, stakeholder and public input are critical during the environmental review process to provide important insight to Charleston County as the project plans and scope are refined.
The environmental review is defined by the purpose and need which is a required step in the NEPA process and helps set the project objectives and guide the process.
The purpose and need for PCI are as follows:
The primary purpose of the project is to provide improved travel times and access options to the rapidly growing, high density employment centers along Palmetto Commerce Parkway and Ingleside Boulevard; improve traffic mobility for the area served by the Ashley Phosphate Road/I-26 Interchange; and provide more efficient commute options within the portion of the regional network that relies on access to I-26 by increasing the number of trips allowed and decreasing delays.
A secondary purpose of the proposed project is to complement economic development in the area by improving access and mobility to the nearby existing and planned commercial, industrial, and mixed-use high-employment areas.
The proposed project is needed to improve access to I-26 and reduce current and future congestion and traffic volume for adjacent roadways and intersections. Once an alternative has been selected, detailed design and right-of-way plans have been developed, and public comments have been received during a public hearing in spring 2019, the project will be reviewed for final approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The graphic below describes the process for ultimately finalizing and gaining approval of the NEPA document. Depending on the type and complexity of the project, the NEPA process can take two years to as many six or even ten years to complete. The NEPA process for PCI is nearing completion with the public hearing to be conducted soon.