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First phase of statewide road repairs underway

Posted: December 7, 2017 4:19 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2017 1:00 a.m.

It may take awhile to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges, but then again, it took a long time for them to deteriorate so severely in the first place.

Thanks to the Roads Bill, passed by the S.C. Legislature earlier this year, the S.C. Department of Transportation is able to embark on a significant and ambitious infrastructure repair project, which includes roads, bridges and major highways. In fact, the $800 million, 10-year first phase is already underway.

“This is monumental in that this is a 30 year old problem -- it took us 30 years to get here, and it will take some time to get back,” Randall Young, an engineer with SCDOT said in a recent public meeting held at the Robert Mills Courtouse, hosted by the Kershaw County legislative delegation.

Young gave an overview of the upcoming infrastructure repair effort, including history, cost, statistics and timeline.  He focused on the general, statewide aspects of the plan rather than individual local projects, but did note that SCDOT does have information on upcoming projects available.

The Palmetto State, he said, has the fourth largest road system in the United States -- more than 40,000 miles to maintain -- yet has, until this year, allocated the second lowest amount of money of any state for maintaining that system. Of that, roughly half, or around 20,000 miles, are secondary rural roads.

“In fact, our secondary road system is larger than 42 other states’ entire road systems,” Young noted.  

He also pointed out that South Carolina has been number one in all the wrong categories -- least dollars spent per mile and worst of all, in number of fatalities.

Some 80 percent of all pavement on S.C. roads needs serious repair, he said.

“These days, we don’t resurface our roads anymore, we actually have to rebuild them, from the bed up,” he said.  

The state also has some 750 bridges it must maintain, about 350 of which are smaller, load restricted local structures. That means heavy truck traffic may not be using them, but a lot of local commuter traffic, as well as such vehicles as school buses, are, he said. 

Finally, the state is about 11 years behind in fixing and maintaining Interstate highways, he said. 

Happily, the legislature passed the roads bill this year, which will provide major funding, in the form of an increase in the gas tax, phased in at 2 cents per year for six years. This is expected to provide around $149 million in 2017 alone and $600 million by the time the entire increase is phased in, he said.

“We can’t thank the legislature enough for doing that,” Young said several times during his presentation.

With that investment, SCDOT is going to provide safety upgrades to 1,000 miles of rural roads – from re-striping and rumble strips to guardrails and enhanced shoulders – with the goal of keeping drivers on the road and getting them back on when they leave the roadway. 

“What we have found is that many of these accidents are caused because drivers, for whatever reason, are leaving the roadway and are unable to re-enter it,” he said.  

In addition, some 465 new bridges are planned and 140 miles of interstate highways are to be prioritized for improvement. These include such areas as I-26 around “Malfunction Junction” in Columbia, entrance and egress into Charleston, and certain sections of I-20 and I-77 that have not had any attention in years, he said.

By 2027, SCDOT is looking at having done $407 million in priority resurfacing projects, $67 million for new bridges and $50 million for rural road safety upgrades.

“Remember, this is just the first phase,” Young said. “We have a lot to do, but we are very excited and thankful to be in the position to do this.”

Young said SCDOT is and will maintain detailed information, available to the public, on its website regarding this -- including a list of projects -- so that the public can see exactly how and where the money is being spent.

For more information go to the website at www.scdot.org/PublicInvolvement or call (803) 737-7900.

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