COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Since 2017 South Carolina drivers have been paying more at the gas pumps for a gas tax increase. It’s an attempt by the General Assembly to generate money for much needed infrastructure improvements.
Orange construction cones and work zones scattered throughout most of the state, represent the gas tax hard at work. But the extra money is doing more than paying for road projects. It’s also creating jobs.
Drivers are paying an extra .06 at the pump currently due to the new revenues. The tax will increase .02 per year for 3 more years. The new revenues will bring the complete total to 12 cents after six years. “We were underfunded for 30 years,” said Pete Poore with the SC Department of Transportation.
The Roads Bill of 2017 was the first attempt in more than 2 decades to fund upgrades and repairs to SC roads.
The money generated by the gas tax goes directly to those improvements ranging from small projects like safety improvements to larger projects like interstate widening.
Poore outlined some of the larger projects set to start soon. “I-85 widening up in Spartanburg- Cherokee County and just above the Midlands on I-26 and by start I mean preliminary work will be for the widening and resurfacing of I-26.
But in order for SCDOT to keep up its end of the “roads bill” and get these projects up and running, an important piece of the puzzle is needed; workers.
Sloan Construction helps hire some of those asphalt workers. Paul Edwards recapped the state of the asphalt industry in the state. “For a little bit there we lost a little with the recession but now we’re seeing people eager to come into the industry.”
There are about 5000 workers in the asphalt industry, but with ongoing and future DOT projects those numbers are expected to increase.
The industry is preparing for an additional 1000 jobs in the next five years.
“We are hiring folks everyday and we are purchasing new equipment and building new asphalt plants so we can complete these projects,” explained Ashley Batson with the SC Asphalt Pavement Association.
There is a statewide campaign called “Asphalt Works” focused on recruiting workers for the asphalt industry.
According to SCDOT, projects are scheduled in all counties on the state and as projects are completed new ones are rolled out.