Columbia, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has mapped out a decade-long plan designed to rebuild decayed roads and replace structurally deficient bridges all across the state. The foundation of this mission began on Saturday, July 1 when the Roads Bill passed by the General Assembly became law.
The state’s gas tax, currently one of the lowest in the nation, will increase for the first time since 1987. The increase effective July 1, 2017 will be 2 cents and will increase by another 2 cents each year for a total of 12 cents at the end of a six-year period. In addition, the vehicle sales tax will be raised on July 1 along with other vehicle related fees.
A new program that is being launched as part of the plan is the Rural Road Safety Program. South Carolina has the highest rural road fatality rate in the nation. In preparation for this program, SCDOT traffic engineers have identified the rural roads that are the most dangerous.
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said this program is aimed at the worst-of-the worst roads. “The research done by our engineers has revealed that 30% of our highway deaths occur on only 5% of our highways and these roads are in our rural areas. We plan to invest $50 million of the new funds into this program each year to save as many lives as possible,” she said.
These targeted roads will see a variety of improvements as needed in each location. Among the improvements are the addition of rumble strips, guard rail, widening shoulders and building shoulders where there are none.
Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin said the additional funding will allow the agency to continue and expand on-going programs. “Our current bridge replacement program began in earnest in 2013. The new funding enables us to set a higher target of replacing 465 bridges over the next ten years. Many of structures are load-restricted and cannot be used by school buses and larger trucks,” said Colvin.
Another on-going program that will benefit from additional funding is the Interstate Widening Program. SCDOT is currently working to improve 140 miles of interstate highways. As the revenue grows, SCDOT will reach a point in the 10-year plan where even more interstate widening can be added to the program. But for now, the agency is taking a “Fix it First” approach.
SCDOT considers the hallmark of the 10-year plan to be the rebuilding and resurfacing of the roads in the state. Deputy Secretary for Finance Brian Keys said a three-decade shortfall in resources has led to crumbling roads all over the state. “The poor pavement conditions and countless potholes are spread throughout the system on our interstates, the major routes that connect our cities and towns and our secondary roads. These conditions did not occur overnight, nor will rebuilding the highway system be accomplished overnight. But the additional funding allows SCDOT to turn the corner and start the repairs,” said Keys.
Secretary Hall’s message to the public is patience. “Our roads fell into neglect over a 30-year period. We believe the 10-year plan can make great strides in rebuilding our system. The new funding will trickle into the Maintenance Trust Fund at first. But as funding increases in small increments over the next six years, South Carolinians and our visitors can expect to see more road and bridge construction all over the state with each passing year,” said Hall.
SCDOT will make periodic reports on the progress of the 10-year plan as revenue accumulates and plans that SCDOT engineers have been preparing for rebuilding projects move forward to construction.
SCDOT invites the public to use SCDOT’s Interactive Programmed Projects Viewer. This map showcases projects that are actively being developed. This can include projects in various stages of development, including the design, right of way acquisition, and construction phase. These are projects that are administered by SCDOT, and may not include all projects administered by local governments or other entities that are being developed on the state maintained highway system.
The Project Viewer is currently one of the six major icons on the SCDOT website: www.scdot.org.
Additional information about SCDOT’s 10-Year Plan to Rebuild South Carolina’s Highway System can be found at this link: http://www.scdot-transfer.org/scdotphotos/June29/presspacket.pdf.