Time Running Out For SC Lawmakers To Address Road Money - WSPA.com

Time Running Out For SC Lawmakers To Address Road Money

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It wasn't a shortage of ideas that derailed the debate.

One called for borrowing a half billion dollars using gas tax to pay it back. Another would use sales tax collected from cars and trucks to find road repairs.  

Senators used the budget debate to propose across-the-board spending cuts of 10%, 5% and 1% and use the money for the Department of Transportation.

Those plans stalled.

All the while, senators said the growing potholes and cracking pavement were costing taxpayers more money in insurance payments and driver frustration.

In April, Senator Larry Martin of Pickens said, "It's gone up significantly, probably about three fold over the last few years, the number of claims paid by the DOT and, of course, that takes away the amount of money that's available to repair the roads."

But with the legislative session winding down, the Senate's best chance would amount to spare change.  Senator Martin said there is still a chance the budget could add about $50 million to the DOT budget.

That's about three percent of the $1.5 billion annual increase the DOT said it needs to maintain the current road system.

"I'm encouraged that there's been a huge discussion about it off and on all session.  Would I have liked to have seen a more comprehensive bill? Certainly, but the political realities you face here with the house and senate and with the Governor, a gas tax of any amount is off the table. So we've got to live within our means and work with what we've got," Martin said.
Thursday, the Senate approved a budget amendment to transfer $50 million dollars to the State Infrastructure Bank, to be leveraged through borrowing.
State of SC Roads
The roads and bridges in the state are all part of an aging infrastructure dealing with more and more drivers.

Dr. Scott Schiff, Professor of Civil Engineering at Clemson University, says the continued growth and development is challenging

"We have a lot more traffic volume, and we're developing, especially in the Upstate area," Schiff explained. 

 The South Carolina Department of Transportation says it needs about $1.5 billion dollars yearly, over 20 years to get the roads in good shape.

"The big problem we face is with bridges," said Sen. Martin.

In Washington, Thursday a bridge gave way, after an 18-wheeler hit part of it carrying an oversize load.

Bridges aren't built to withstand an act of God, but civil engineers say they should be designed to tolerate a reasonable amount of force and still keep you safe.

"If you survey the entire U.S., many states have structurally deficient bridges, and all of them are challenged with how to begin replace them," Schiff explained.

According to a report from Transportation America, about 11% of highway bridges across the country are "structurally deficient."

The numbers are higher in South Carolina, at about 13%.

As the backlog of bad bridges grows, so does the cost.

Schiff hopes that funding isn't too much further down the road.

"It's really not an issue of the technology," he said, "it's really the resources to go ahead and fund these construction projects."





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