We are headed towards an iceberg. In the past weeks both the Coastal Conservation League and the governor have said we need to rebuild our roads. South Carolina is facing infrastructure disaster. Potholes, broken pavement and dilapidated bridges are the hallmarks of South Carolina’s transportation system. CarInsuranceComparison.com ranks S.C. roads as the worst in the nation. The annual economic loss to the state from traffic accidents is estimated at about $2.5 billion. If we don’t change direction we will smack into that iceberg. SCDOT’s own Getting to Good report outlines the condition or our roads and bridges and estimates it will need to spend $1.4 billion annually for the next 20 years to get our roads to an adequate standard of quality.
Politics direct South Carolina’s transportation agenda. Billions of dollars have gone to pet projects of powerful legislators; projects that are unneeded, disrupt communities and negatively impact the environment. A good example of this politically driven wastefulness is the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, a shadow SCDOT without accountability, transparency or public input. The Infrastructure Bank has allocated over $4 billion since legislators created it in 1997. More than half of the money has gone to Horry, Charleston and Greenville counties; 35 counties have received nothing from the bank.
How do we change our direction? There are four actions the legislature can take this session that will put us on a new heading. 1. Adopt a fix-it-first policy that requires 75 percent of road funds, state and federal, go to maintaining, preserving and rehabilitating our existing roads and bridges. 2. Dissolve the State Infrastructure Bank board and transfer the bank’s bonding capacity to the Department of Transportation. 3. Prohibit any state agency from obligating money they don’t have and 4. Require that all infrastructure projects; maintenance, new capacity on existing roads or roads on new alignment be subjected to the ranking and prioritization requirements of Act 114.
Every fiscal conservative driving in South Carolina needs to ask their legislators to support Senate bills 184 and 209. Let’s support a new heading on roads that are safe and maintained by an agency that does not commit money it doesn’t have to projects that are not prioritized. We have the opportunity to change our direction and avoid that iceberg.