SCDOT Hitting Goals Halfway into 10-Year Plan to Improve State’s Roads, BridgesApr 12, 2022 05:22PM ● By Zach Mcjunkin
By John C. Stevenson
Halfway into South Carolina’s 10-year plan to improve and preserve the state’s roads, highways and bridges, the state’s Department of Transportation leader says the SCDOT is “meeting and exceeding” its goals.
The current 10-year plan was kicked off in 2017 when state lawmakers passed a funding bill that increased the state’s gas tax at a rate of 2 cents a gallon per year for six years, an overall increase of 12 cents.
The proceeds are going into a dedicated fund, the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund, which, according to the department’s website, forms the “financial foundation” of the SCDOT’s 10-year plan, along with other state and federal funds.
“SCDOT has been meeting and exceeding the goals it set for the 10-year plan as we near the halfway point,” said DOT Secretary Christy Hall in an emailed response to several questions regarding the state of the Palmetto State’s roads.
“Due to the foresight of the General Assembly to increase transportation funding in the 2017 Roads Bill, it allowed SCDOT to develop a strategic and measurable 10-year plan that was in place when the bill became law on July 1, 2017.”
The 10-year plan focuses on four key areas, according to Hall. She said the first priority is to address a “30-year backlog in our pavements.” DOT’s second goal is to replace 465 “structurally deficient and load-restricted bridges.”
The third focus is to reduce traffic fatalities statewide.
“South Carolina has the dubious distinction of having the worst rural-road fatality rate in the nation, and we want to take measures to make the 5 percent of rural roads safer where 30 percent of deaths occur,” Hall explained.
The final focus, according to Hall, is to make improvements to the state’s interstate highways, such as Greenville’s recent Gateway Project that aimed to improve traffic flow around the I-85/I-385 interchange, as well as interstate-widening projects throughout the state.
Hall lauded the DOT’s accomplishments in the five years since the plan’s inception.
“Prior to the investments in transportation made by the General Assembly, SCDOT had about $1 billion in construction contracts outstanding,” she said. “Today, we have tripled that value to $3.4 billion and have work zones in all 46 counties. We have put out over 5,500 miles of repaving projects, and the number of the pavements rated ‘good’ have doubled since the 10-year plan has been implemented.
“We have started construction of 217 bridges and have raised the target from 465 bridges to 500 bridges,” she continued. “On rural road safety, we have started construction on 713 miles of improvements and have raised the target from 1,000 miles to 1,250 miles of improvements. We have 80 miles of interstate improvements underway with major projects like (the) I-85/I-385 (interchange) completed and rebuilding ‘Malfunction Junction’ (the I-20/I-26/I-126 corridor) in Columbia getting underway.”
Hall said motorists are already taking advantage of improvements that have been made during the first half of the 10-year plan.
“The 10-year plan is making a difference, and we are seeing the results on the ground now,” she said. “We have tripled the level of construction work happening across South Carolina and with it, work zones across all 46 counties.”
Regarding those work zones, Hall said, “I encourage South Carolinians to drive carefully – particularly through the work zones.”
Additional federal dollars aid plans
In addition to the increased gasoline tax, Hall said the state will also benefit from increased federal money earmarked for infrastructure improvements flowing into state coffers.
“The Infrastructure Act significantly increases the amount of formula funding coming to South Carolina from about $700 million a year to over $1 billion a year,” Hall said.
“SCDOT has updated its 10-year plan to incorporate the funds from the Infrastructure Act with significant focus on dealing with the growth and accompanying congestion impacting our state and encouraging rural access and economic development, while also continuing and expanding our state of good repair activities on bridges, pavements, and safety.”
Hall noted the federal funds require a state match, meaning “it will be necessary for SCDOT to receive an additional $100 million in state match so that South Carolina” can receive all of the expected federal money.
In addition, a one-time investment of $453 million from the federal American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, is allowing the SCDOT to “accelerate several key projects,” according to Hall.
The first priority for SCDOT will be to accelerate the widening of I-26 between Charleston and Columbia: “This was identified as our number one priority – particularly with new truck traffic anticipated from the opening of the new Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston,” she said. “This one-time investment being made will help us speed up that project by six years.”
Hall said the influx of cash will help the state keep up with transportation-infrastructure needs, even as new residents flock to the state in growing numbers.
“With new investments being made in infrastructure, it’s time to focus on the pressures of growth and rural economic development,” Hall said.
“This is an exciting time in transportation,” she added. “The investments initiated by the General Assembly in 2017 have set the stage for South Carolina to be well-positioned for new investments coming down.”