It’s been a long and broken road leading to the final days of the South Carolina General Assembly concerning the debate to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. The Senate is road blocked on a legislative solution to provide a dedicated increase in infrastructure funding.
It is up to the people of South Carolina, the people who drive those dangerous roads, to keep the pressure on and see it through.
While the debate rages on in Columbia, the same debate is happening in Washington, D.C., where Congress recently voted to delay permanent action of the federal highway trust fund until this summer. While groups like the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads continues to lead the fight for proper funding at the General Assembly, we need our congressional delegation to make sure that South Carolina has adequate federal funding for highways.
Thanks to a short-term extension, the Federal Highway Trust Fund is set to expire this summer unless Congress takes swift action. If Congress does not act, our state stands to lose out on the matching federal dollars, which will hurt progress in South Carolina.
Many neighboring southern states like Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have already put transportation projects on hold because of the uncertainty. With the summer driving season upon us and South Carolina’s infrastructure in such a state of disrepair, it would be a disaster if either the General Assembly or Congress failed to fully fund this core function of government.
The recent report on the state of South Carolina’s roads issued by the non-profit research group, TRIP, stated that the condition of the state’s infrastructure was costing drivers an average of $3 billion per year and approximately $1,200 per driver in extra vehicle maintenance, gas and lost time from traffic congestion.
The cost becomes even higher when you consider that TRIP also named our state the second deadliest when it came to rural road fatalities.
Without real leadership in Columbia and Washington fighting for dedicated funding for our roads and bridges, our infrastructure quagmire will become insurmountable. The math is simple; South Carolina drivers cannot afford the cost of doing nothing - at the state or federal level.
Industry leaders from all walks have joined with community leaders and the majority of the people in this state to unite around this issue like never before. From transportation groups like AAA and the trucking industry to the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and leading manufacturers like Michelin and Sonoco; there is just one priority - fix SC roads.
Even the recent Winthrop study found that 55 percent, a clear majority of South Carolinians, are willing to pay for improving our infrastructure. There is no denying that without a modern and safe infrastructure system, our economy cannot grow or even maintain.
Every day we delay the problem gets worse and more dangerous.
Providing safe roads and bridges is a core function of government, and too long we have avoided making tough decisions. Paying to fix our roads and bridges requires action at the General Assembly and Congress.
We must have real leadership from our state elected officials and from our congressional delegation.
The writer lives is the executive director for the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads.