Who should I contact if I have questions about the project or the process?
If I signed in at the meeting will I be kept informed about future project meetings and milestones?
Not necessarily. Due to anti-spamming laws, SCDOT does not automatically add attendees to our email update list unless there was a specific question that asked if you would like to receive updates. While we may occasionally mail documents through USPS, we encourage you to sign up for updates on our Stay Informed page to receive all updates.
What is going to be done about the flooding that occurs now and will anything be done to keep it from getting worse?
The project team will evaluate stormwater management performance of the existing corridor and include appropriate improvements as part of the recommended preferred alternative for the project.
What prompted the I-526 LCC EAST study?
This segment of I-526 LCC EAST has been identified by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) as one of South Carolina’s more congested segments of interstate. High traffic volumes create considerable congestion during the weekday morning and afternoon peak commuting periods. Several factors are expected to compound this congestion, including the current trend of regional population growth, industrial expansion along the corridor specifically at the Charleston International Airport, and the opening of a new container terminal by the South Carolina Ports Authority.
Congestion increases the cost of travel, reduces productivity and competitiveness for our industries, and adversely affects the environment. Finding effective solutions for this corridor that are consistent with the needs of the community has become a statewide priority.
What is the current status of the I-526 LCC EAST project?
The I-526 LCC EAST project was initiated in the Spring of 2018 as a set of planning studies to conduct existing conditions reports on traffic, safety and condition of the infrastructure. Since that time, the study team has also initiated field surveys of the corridor and field studies of the physical environment and has transitioned formally to a Planning & Environmental Linkages (PEL) study. An initial public meeting will be held in 2020.
What is SCDOT doing to help reduce noise in the I-526 LCC EAST study area?
The EAST PEL study is a higher-level planning study, and a detailed noise analysis would be done in the next phase of the project development (NEPA). SCDOT understands noise impacts are an important concern for residents and will make it a top concern as the project further develops. SCDOT has policies in place that outline how it implements the Federal Highway Administration noise regulations and standards for federal aid projects and/or projects subject to Federal Highway Administration approval.
Why does SCDOT perform vegetative maintenance?
SCDOT cuts and maintains vegetation in Clear Zones to improve safety. Clear Zones along pavement edges help motorists stay safe when vehicles leave the road, providing a clear area for vehicles to recover or come to a stop safely if they leave the roadway. This is extremely important as the majority of fatal accidents in South Carolina involve contact with a fix object. Additionally, vegetative maintenance helps improve drainage and allows us to better access the ditch line and fencing for maintenance.
How is traffic noise evaluated?
For the first step in the process, SCDOT experts go to homes, churches, businesses, or other places that may be affected by a proposed highway project and use special equipment to monitor existing noise.
Next, complex computer modeling is used to predict expected noise changes at these locations once the road is built and traffic increases.
Then, it must be determined which noise-sensitive locations were permitted before the Date of Public Knowledge and, therefore, are eligible for noise reduction.
If the anticipated noise increase is MORE than the level defined by SCDOT policy, we begin to consider possible ways to reduce the noise, such as with noise walls and earth berms, at all eligible locations.
When are noise walls considered?
Whenever a highway project uses federal funds and meets the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) criteria of a Type I project, the potential for increased traffic noise and how to reduce it must be evaluated. For all Type I projects where traffic noise impacts are predicted, noise abatement (typically in the form of noise walls) must be considered.
Potential traffic noise increases are evaluated for any building permitted before the “Date of Public Knowledge.”
What is the “Date of Public Knowledge”?
This is the date that the public (and local government) is notified of the future path of the road and is the date of approval of the Categorical Exclusion (CE), the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), or the Record of Decision (ROD).
Are there alternatives to noise walls?
Other options may also help reduce traffic noise. Some of these may be provided by SCDOT, and others are alternatives that might be considered by private developers or homeowners.
- Land use design – if homes are set back from the road or are separated from the road by other development, the noise levels may be lower.
- Noise berm (earth or other materials) and combination berm/wall systems
- Types of vehicles/speed limits – noise can be reduced with lower speed limits and truck restrictions on a road. However, reducing the speed limit below the appropriate speed based on the design will have only a moderate effect on traffic noise and may actually increase the number of accidents on the roadway
- Building insulation – noise insulation in buildings, such as replacing doors and windows or adding insulation to walls and attics
When do noise walls work?
Sounds travels very much like water or light. It follows the easiest path over, under, and around things in its path. The farther away from the source of the sound, the lower the noise.
Noise walls do not work if the source of the noise can be seen. The noise will simply travel through that opening much like water will flow through a crack in a dam. If a building is located higher than a noise wall, the noise will flow over the wall to the building.
The graphic shows two examples of noise walls located between buildings and a road. In both cases, the wall will shield one of the houses but will not shield them all.
Noise walls do not completely eliminate all noise.
How does SCDOT decide which communities get noise walls and which do not?
Once SCDOT has completed the technical evaluation, they also consider the following questions:
- Will a noise wall reduce the noise enough to justify its construction? Sometimes, a noise wall will not reduce the noise enough to be considered reasonable and/or feasible.
- Is a noise wall technically feasible? Every road is different, many factors are considered such as topography, safety, drainage, utilities, maintenance of the wall, and whether driveways and side road access will be impacted.
- How many people will hear a difference in noise? Is that number high enough to justify the cost? Sometimes, the cost is too high to build a wall when compared to the benefits received.
- Does a simple majority of property owners and tenants who receive a predicted noise level reduction due to construction of a noise wall actually want the wall? Public preference for or against a wall is obtained through a balloting process.
What assurances are there that noise impacts will be considered and that noise walls will be built where needed?
Federal regulations require SCDOT to conduct noise studies and consider the impacts of a highway expansion project on nearby residents when a project is developed with federal funds. SCDOT’s Noise Abatement Policy describes the process that SCDOT uses to determine the reasonableness and feasibility of constructing noise walls.
To learn more about how SCDOT considers noise impacts during the project development process, we invite you to watch the “Highway Traffic Noise” educational video.
Why was a noise barrier not constructed on Interstate 26 as part of the 2008 widening and interchange improvements at Remount and Aviation?
The construction of noise barriers on federally funded projects depends upon a number of factors including engineering feasibility, sound level reduction, cost, and public input. The noise analysis for the 2008 project determined that a noise barrier was not reasonable due to prohibitive costs. However, SCDOT would be required to evaluate noise impacts and assess the need for noise barriers if I-26 is widened in the future.
What is the process for determining the project footprint or what homes and businesses the project will impact?
SCDOT roadway and bridge improvement projects are planned and developed through an extensive environmental review process, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During this environmental review process, SCDOT performs environmental and community surveys and evaluates all the potential project alternatives that could be considered to meet the purpose and need of the highway improvements. SCDOT seeks to find the project alternative that strikes the best balance between meeting the needs of the highway and minimizing the impacts to the natural and human environments.
Community impacts, such as right-of-way impacts and property owner relocations, are considered as a part of the NEPA process. The public and potential impacted communities will be engaged throughout the NEPA process to gather input on the proposed project alternatives. This graphic demonstrates the general project development process for this type of project.
What is Right-of-way (ROW) and what law do we follow when buying ROW?
When we (SCDOT) build or improve roads and bridges, we often have to acquire property, known as right-of-way, or ROW. We have uniform practices for conducting property acquisitions, providing relocation assistance, and preparing appraisals. We follow the Uniform Relocation Assistance & Real Property Acquisitions Policies Act of 1970, which protects property owners’ rights and ensures that everyone is treated fairly and equitably during property acquisitions. If you have specific questions about the ROW process or relocation benefits, please give us a call or come by the Community Office to schedule an appointment with our ROW specialists.
Additional resources are available on the SCDOT and FHWA website at the following links:
The construction of noise barriers on federally funded projects depends upon a number of factors including engineering feasibility, sound level reduction, cost, and public input. SCDOT would be required to evaluate noise impacts and assess the need for noise barriers if I-26 is widened in the future.
When does the ROW process start, and how does it work?
The official right-of-way (ROW) acquisition process does not typically start until the NEPA process is completed and a NEPA decision has been issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), who is overseeing the project. If a build alternative is selected, SCDOT will develop the final ROW plans for the project. Once ROW plans are finalized, the plans will be provided to the SCDOT ROW agents and ROW acquisition activities would begin in the steps outlined below.
ROW agents will perform research on the properties that need to be acquired for the project to confirm ownership and secure property records.
Next, the agent will contact the property owners individually to discuss the project, explain the ROW acquisition process, gather information about the property, and gather information to determine the relocation benefits eligibility (if applicable).
The agent will prepare a cost estimate (for properties valued at less than $20,000) or order property appraisals in order to establish the fair market value of the property. Real estate appraisals are performed by licensed South Carolina appraisers who are certified general real estate appraisers. The property owner will be contacted by the real estate appraiser in order for the property to be inspected. The property owner will be given the opportunity to be present during inspection of the property and be able provide information concerning the property or recent property sales in the area to the appraiser.
Once the appraisal is completed and approved, then the agent will prepare an offer and relocation benefits package (if applicable) that will be presented to the property owner. The agent and the property owner will negotiate based on a written offer that will be provided to the property owner.
While this is the normal process, FHWA does allow some early ROW acquisition activities under certain special circumstances. SCDOT must prepare a detailed proposal and seek FHWA approval for any early or advance ROW activities. These advance ROW acquisitions are usually limited to those properties that would be impacted by the project in the case of any of the alternatives being considered.
What are the options to the exercise of eminent domain through condemnation? What other things occur before SCDOT would take my house this way?
In the event SCDOT and the property owner are unable to negotiate a settlement, the South Carolina Eminent Domain Procedure Act provides a uniform procedure for condemnation of property for public use. The purpose of the condemnation process is to establish just compensation when two parties cannot agree on what fair market value should be for a particular property. There will be opportunities through this process to mediate a settlement before going to a jury trial.
What if equivalent housing is not available?
On highway projects in South Carolina where people will be relocated, a survey is made by SCDOT of the families to be moved and the housing available in the area. The right-of-way agents working on the project will personally interview you if you are to be relocated, and determine your relocation needs and preferences. You will be provided current and continuing information on the availability, purchase prices, and rental costs of comparable replacement housing. You are not required to choose the comparable replacement housing presented by the agent and can pick other housing units or move to other locations at your discretion. You cannot be required to move unless at least one comparable replacement housing is made available by SCDOT. Comparable replacement housing must meet the following criteria:
- Decent, safe, and sanitary.
- Functionally equivalent to the acquired house with particular attention to the number of rooms and living space.
- Large enough to accommodate the occupants.
- Located in an area that is not subject to reasonable adverse environmental conditions, and not in an area that is generally less desirable that the acquired house.
- Reasonably accessible to the person’s place of employment.
- Located on a site that is typical in size for residential developments with normal site improvements including customary landscaping.
- Currently available on the market.
If equivalently priced housing is not available and the new housing costs more, who pays the difference?
The right-of-way agent will inform you in writing of the specific comparable replacement housing and the sales prices or rent used as the basis for establishing the upper limit of the replacement housing payment and the basis for that determination. So you will be aware of the amount of the replacement housing payment to which you may be entitled. If the comparable replacement housing available on the market are priced higher (property appraised value or rent), the homeowner may be eligible for supplemental benefits for a period of time to cover this price differential, including increased mortgage interests costs and all eligible incidental expenses (such as closing costs).
What about the increased property tax associated with a more expensive home? Is there a mechanism for help or relief?
The comparable replacement housing offered to the property owner should be within the property owner’s financial means, meaning the monthly payments and estimated average utility costs at the replacement housing does not significantly exceed their current payments. The property owner may be eligible for supplemental benefits or payments to cover price differentials in the purchase price or rent. However, this supplemental payment does not address the increased property taxes on the property. SCDOT’s agent will inform the property owner of the estimated property taxes of any comparable replacement housing offered and ensure that the property owner is aware of this difference prior to any decisions regarding the replacement property.
If my house is to be taken who pays to move me? What costs are covered/not covered?
Any individual, family, renter or business that will be displaced as a part of the project may be eligible for benefits under the SCDOT Relocation Assistance Program. The benefits package may vary based on the type of household and personal situation. The right-of-way agent will meet with you to determine your relocation needs and preferences and explain the relocation payments and other assistance for which you may be eligible. These benefits may include assistance in finding comparable replacement housing, housing inspections, transportation to view housing options, advisory services, moving expenses, and supplemental payments for price differentials in comparable housing, incidental expenses, and/or rent supplements. SCDOT has right-of-way relocation specialists available to answer your questions and provide guidance based on your specific situation. Please contact Joy Riley, the SCDOT Project Manager, for additional information.
What if I rent, not own?
All displaced persons, whether a property owner or a tenant, may be eligible for relocation assistance. The assistance available to tenants may include agent assistance in finding comparable rental replacement housing, transportation to view housing options if needed, advisory services, actual moving expenses, and supplemental rent payments. If a renter wishes to consider property ownership as part of the relocation assistance program, then the benefits payment could be used by a displaced person for a down payment and closing costs on a replacement house if desired. The displaced tenant should tell the agent their preference to consider home ownership after the relocation offer has been made so the agent can advise the tenant on this potential opportunity.
What if I am an owner, but not a resident?
Property owners will be contacted during the initial right-of-way acquisitions and provided with an offer of real estate purchase based on the fair market value of the property and any improvements on the property being purchased. If any housing on the property is vacant at the time of purchase, then relocation entitlement would be for personal property moves only. No replacement housing payment would be applicable to the property owner who does not reside on the property and is not being required to relocate as a result of the project, any tenants that have previously vacated the property prior to initiation of negotiations (written offer), nor any person who occupies the property after SCDOT acquires title to the property.
What if I am a business owner and you are impacting my business?
Businesses that are impacted by a highway project may also eligible for relocation benefits. Business owners may be eligible for moving expenses, relocation assistance for finding a new business location, searching expenses, and business re-establishment expenses. Right-of-way agents will work with each impacted business to identify their benefits eligibility and assist them in understanding their benefits package.
Why can’t ROW for properties that would be within the 75-foot area currently needed for maintenance that was mentioned at the meeting be acquired now?
SCDOT is currently performing detailed right-of-way relocation studies in the potentially impacted communities in order to identify potential opportunities to work with the community to advance some early right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions and/or relocations. As SCDOT moves forward in refining the project alternatives, we will determine if there are properties that would be impacted with all available alternatives. At that time, we will explore with our federal project partners, FHWA, the potential for advanced ROW activities and seek their approval for any proposals for advanced acquisitions.
What is the capital gains exposure for homeowners that sell their homes?
SCDOT recommends that the homeowner consults with their accountant or tax preparer.
Can you provide an example of projects in recent years, where relocations were necessary, and can we get some information about how that turned out for those affected?
During the past 12-15 years, there have been no formal relocation appeals or any formal complaints filed on any SCDOT project with relocation assistance.