South Carolina DOT on track to invest $3.2 billion in infrastructure

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has tripled its workload since 2017, the Secretary of Transportation told the state legislature this month.

In a presentation to the state Senate Transportation Committee, Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said the department is moving forward with $3.2 billion in construction projects statewide. The work is part of a 10-year strategic plan to address a 30-year backlog of deferred maintenance.

In 2008, the department’s construction fund was $1 billion. The increase in funding comes from a gas tax that went into effect in July 2017. Previously only 16 cents per gallon, the gas tax will increase by 2 cents per gallon every fiscal year until 2022, at which time it will be 28 cents per gallon. More than $1.3 billion in new gas tax funds have been invested in road and bridge work, according to SCDOT.

Hall told legislators the department is focusing on safety, paving, bridge and interstates. To increase the safety of the roads, the department is spending $50 million a year on improving rural roads. Research into fatal accidents found that nearly 30 percent of the state’s fatalities and serious injury crashes occur on just 5 percent of the state’s roads: rural roads.

So far, the department has improved nearly 400 miles of roads, with a goal of improving 1,000 miles of roads over 10 years. The department has also addressed more than 110 bridges, with a 10-year target of addressing repair issues on 465 bridges.

The department began construction on improving a 16-mile segment of Interstate 26 that stretches from Exit 85 in Little Mountain to Exit 101 in Irmo. The project will widen the roadway and upgrade interchanges along the roadway in order to meet current state and federal requirements and replace seven overpass bridges.

“This section of I-26 is a vital link in our interstate system that will be improved for the 52,000 motorists who travel this road daily,” Hall said in a statement. Analysts predict that number will increase to more than 105,000 by 2040.

South Carolina has the fourth-largest state highway system in the country and the sixth-fastest population growth rate.

The project is expected to begin this spring and be completed by 2024.

Hall, in an email interview, said that construction projects are moving forward, for now.

“SCDOT intends to keep working on road and bridge construction projects until it is no longer safe or effective for us to do so. At this point in time, there are no disruptions in the material supply chain or road worker availability. Additionally, like other businesses in the state, our industry has implemented sanitizing and personal health protection measures,” Hall said. “We will continually reassess the situation and will adjust as needed to ensure the health and well-being of the employees in our industry.”