SC

SC’s Overstated Infrastructure Problem

You literally can’t turn a corner in downtown Columbia, S.C. these days without running into a lobbyist pushing for increased government funding for infrastructure … or a politician eager to accommodate them. Or a study claiming how such funding increases are “long overdue” and “vitally necessary” or some other such…

You literally can’t turn a corner in downtown Columbia, S.C. these days without running into a lobbyist pushing for increased government funding for infrastructure … or a politician eager to accommodate them.

Or a study claiming how such funding increases are “long overdue” and “vitally necessary” or some other such hyperbole.

Nevermind that our state is maintaining the fifth-largest (well, longest) network of roads in the nation – despite the fact we rank fortieth in geographic area.

Does that make sense? Hell no …

And does it make sense that our leaders are continuing to pursue a pair of wasteful projects (here and here) when they could achieve identical transportation efficiences for one-tenth the cost?

Again, hell no …

And finally, does it make sense that despite record growth in state spending S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s Department of Transportation has stopped paving and maintaining existing roads and bridges due to “lack of funds?” Even after receiving a $52 million bailout from the administration of Barack Obama?

Of course not …

Ready for the kicker? After all the complaining, borrowing, corruption, waste and inefficiency – South Carolina’s infrastructure situation may not even be as bad as we were led to believe.

In fact according to a new report released this week by the Reason Foundation, “South Carolina improved on six key measures of its highways between 1989 and 2008, and only got worse in one category.”

And while the study acknowledges the state completed a modest number of infrastructure enhancements to substandard roads during this time period, “that was largely because there were so few bad roads to begin with.”

“Indeed, by 2008 roads in poor condition had reached near-zero levels in South Carolina,” the report found. “The state, which had a high urban congestion rate in 1989, had reduced urban congestion by 30.4 (percent) by 2008.”

Hmmmm …

Obviously anyone who’s traveled up and down Interstate 95 in the Palmetto State can tell you all is not peachy with Palmetto roadways, but this study provides a valuable counterpoint to the incessant drumbeat for more revenue.

It should also be another reason to question the demands for funding increases – most notably a gas tax hike.

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65 comments

Just Sayin' February 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm

While I do not disagree with the premise that the I-73 & I-526 projects are wasteful, anybody who travels the state cannot help but notice the poor condition of the secondary roads. So for the report to say “[T]here were so few bad roads to begin with” pretty much destroys a lot of its credibility. And that’s not even looking at the report’s sponsorship and that organization’s bias.

One other point to notice: SC spends by far the fewest dollars on its highway system as indicated in the report. Next closest states (NC & WV) spend 37% more than SC, which only spends 15% of the nationwide average.

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mohanna February 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

Secondary roads are generally the responsibility of County Government.

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ELCID February 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Not so in SC. The State maintains almost all the secondary road systems. That’s why we have one of the largest State Road Systems in the USA, while being a relatively small State.

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Peter Oute February 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

And why South Carolina receives similar amounts as other states, but spends less per mile. Those secondary roads aren’t eligible for federal money.

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ELCID February 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

Good point. I didn’t know that one.
Makes sense.

fred January 24, 2014 at 1:04 am

Tell that to Fred Cavanaugh, the mayor of Aiken. He and his cronies are hellbent on spending $43 MILLION on an expansion in order to widen a “PARKWAY”. Everyone (TAXPAYERS) is against yet this asshole and the Chamber of Commerce are for it?

stickler February 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I recently recalculated my critique of the claim that I-73 would produce “29,000 jobs” in the Pee Dee and Myrtle Beach area — the main claim that all the I-73 backers repeat endlessly.

You can read my letter to the Sun News at http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2013/02/17/3333337/i-73-math-just-doesnt-add-up.html

The heart of the matter is the claim that tourism encouraged by travel time savings would result in 18,856 jobs. By the time I corrected all the wrong assumptions and calculation errors, that number would not be more than 1,305 new jobs. Hardly worth the $2.5 billion the project would cost.

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Just Sayin' February 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm

While I do not disagree with the premise that the I-73 & I-526 projects are wasteful, anybody who travels the state cannot help but notice the poor condition of the secondary roads. So for the report to say “[T]here were so few bad roads to begin with” pretty much destroys a lot of its credibility. And that’s not even looking at the report’s sponsorship and that organization’s bias.

One other point to notice: SC spends by far the fewest dollars on its highway system as indicated in the report. Next closest states (NC & WV) spend 37% more than SC, which only spends 15% of the nationwide average.

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mohanna February 22, 2013 at 9:43 am

Secondary roads are generally the responsibility of County Government.

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ELCID February 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Not so in SC. The State maintains almost all the secondary road systems. That’s why we have one of the largest State Road Systems in the USA, while being a relatively small State.

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Peter Oute February 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm

And why South Carolina receives similar amounts as other states, but spends less per mile. Those secondary roads aren’t eligible for federal money.

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ELCID February 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

Good point. I didn’t know that one.
Makes sense.

tomstickler February 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I recently recalculated my critique of the claim that I-73 would produce “29,000 jobs” in the Pee Dee and Myrtle Beach area — the main claim that all the I-73 backers repeat endlessly.

You can read my letter to the Sun News at http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2013/02/17/3333337/i-73-math-just-doesnt-add-up.html

The heart of the matter is the claim that tourism encouraged by travel time savings would result in 18,856 jobs. By the time I corrected all the wrong assumptions and calculation errors, that number would not be more than 1,305 new jobs. Hardly worth the $2.5 billion the project would cost.

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9" February 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm

bullshit.where you been,bitch.fits thrives on conflict..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDoYsBAyFb0

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9" February 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

bullshit.where you been,bitch.fits thrives on conflict..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDoYsBAyFb0

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BinxBolling February 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Interesting stuff in the report. Seems like a good chunk of those improvements mentioned came in that 1989-99 span, while some areas saw the bump (ha) in the 1999-2008 span.

So the fixes that led to improved numbers in the study are roughly 5 to 20 years old — is it possible we’d gotten used to the improved conditions from that two decade period of fixing things up…and now stuff’s falling apart again? After all, we’ve all seen repaired/patched roads turn to rubble within a year or two of “improvements.”

But what do I know? I just drive around the state and listen to my car rattle. Then I get to other states and things smooth out. Either way, it’d be nice to see data from 2008-2012. I mean, nothing much has happened since 2008 but it couldn’t hurt, right?

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inletman February 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

My car doesn’t rattle.

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BinxBolling February 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Interesting stuff in the report. Seems like a good chunk of those improvements mentioned came in that 1989-99 span, while some areas saw the bump (ha) in the 1999-2008 span.

So the fixes that led to improved numbers in the study are roughly 5 to 20 years old — is it possible we’d gotten used to the improved conditions from that two decade period of fixing things up…and now stuff’s falling apart again? After all, we’ve all seen repaired/patched roads turn to rubble within a year or two of “improvements.”

But what do I know? I just drive around the state and listen to my car rattle. Then I get to other states and things smooth out. Either way, it’d be nice to see data from 2008-2012. I mean, nothing much has happened since 2008 but it couldn’t hurt, right?

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inletman February 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

My car doesn’t rattle.

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Recovering Lobbyist February 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm

They have plenty of funds for roads. They just need to stop spending our money on unnecessary projects. Forget I-73 and I-526, have your driven U.S. 321 through North and Neeses? Or any of the Pee Dee super highways? It’s about priorities.

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nitrat February 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm

The SCDOT has started some other craziness.
Instead of 4 way stops, even with flashing lights, they are building traffic circles which take months to complete with costs that are substantially higher than putting up 2 more stop signs at an intersection.
They are doing this is various counties for God knows what reason.

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junior justice February 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

Probably for self-preservation by using “training funds” to see if it can really be done!

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Recovering Lobbyist February 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

They have plenty of funds for roads. They just need to stop spending our money on unnecessary projects. Forget I-73 and I-526, have your driven U.S. 321 through North and Neeses? Or any of the Pee Dee super highways? It’s about priorities.

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nitrat February 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

The SCDOT has started some other craziness.
Instead of 4 way stops, even with flashing lights, they are building traffic circles which take months to complete with costs that are substantially higher than putting up 2 more stop signs at an intersection.
They are doing this is various counties for God knows what reason.

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junior justice February 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

Probably for self-preservation by using “training funds” to see if it can really be done!

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EJB February 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

If, as “they” say we don’t have the money to maintain existing roads how are we going to maintain the new roads we can’t afford to build? Are we seriously going to build new roads just to watch them go to hell? If we have, can get, the hundreds of millions of dollars to build I73 and I526 wouldn’t that money be better spent fixing the bridges “they” say are about to collapse, or fix other roads that are in horrible condition? Don’t forget one of Jake Knotts’ favorite transportation projects – the Hardee Expressway extension to I26, another waste of $40M that is obviously a pay off to provide interstate access to an awful lot of land.

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EJB February 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

If, as “they” say we don’t have the money to maintain existing roads how are we going to maintain the new roads we can’t afford to build? Are we seriously going to build new roads just to watch them go to hell? If we have, can get, the hundreds of millions of dollars to build I73 and I526 wouldn’t that money be better spent fixing the bridges “they” say are about to collapse, or fix other roads that are in horrible condition? Don’t forget one of Jake Knotts’ favorite transportation projects – the Hardee Expressway extension to I26, another waste of $40M that is obviously a pay off to provide interstate access to an awful lot of land.

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Jay Elliott February 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm

The Reason Foundation receives substantial money from the Koch and Scaife “charities.” Very little funding comes from independent subscribers. Reason magazine isn’t what it used to be, after it was hijacked by the Koch brothers and their allies. This report is suspect.

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Jay Elliott February 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

The Reason Foundation receives substantial money from the Koch and Scaife “charities.” Very little funding comes from independent subscribers. Reason magazine isn’t what it used to be, after it was hijacked by the Koch brothers and their allies. This report is suspect.

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nitrat February 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Reason Foundation…another Libertarian, Koch “think” tank.

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Smirks February 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Proof?

Reason isn’t that bad from my experience, granted I do not always agree with their stances.

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nitrat February 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Reason Foundation…another Libertarian, Koch “think” tank.

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Smirks February 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Proof?

Reason isn’t that bad from my experience, granted I do not always agree with their stances.

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Steve February 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

“…there were so few bad roads to begin with.”?? Did those reserachers ever drive any South Carolina roads? Come ride some state secondary roads in Lancaster County and tell me there are few bad roads to begin with. What BS. I won’t argue that the SCDOT Commissioners don’t have misplaced spending priorities but the district and county maintenance staff at the local offices desperately need additional road maintenance funding.

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Steve February 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

“…there were so few bad roads to begin with.”?? Did those reserachers ever drive any South Carolina roads? Come ride some state secondary roads in Lancaster County and tell me there are few bad roads to begin with. What BS. I won’t argue that the SCDOT Commissioners don’t have misplaced spending priorities but the district and county maintenance staff at the local offices desperately need additional road maintenance funding.

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Peter Oute February 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Using changes in percentage to determine whether infrastructure is in good shape can be a misleading statistic. Look at it this way: Say my community has 100 miles of roads we maintain. Of those 40 miles (40%) are in “poor” condition.
But instead of repairing those roads, we decide to build another 40 miles of entirely new roads. While the same 40 miles are in poor condition (and soon more mileage will be, too), that percentage actually drops to 29%. So the Reason report would indicate we’re doing well, when the reality is quite opposite.

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junior justice February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

This is typical hypocrisy in order to justify management’s continuing existence without actually correcting the problem.

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Peter Oute February 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Using changes in percentage to determine whether infrastructure is in good shape can be a misleading statistic. Look at it this way: Say my community has 100 miles of roads we maintain. Of those 40 miles (40%) are in “poor” condition.
But instead of repairing those roads, we decide to build another 40 miles of entirely new roads. While the same 40 miles are in poor condition (and soon more mileage will be, too), that percentage actually drops to 29%. So the Reason report would indicate we’re doing well, when the reality is quite opposite.

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junior justice February 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

This is typical hypocrisy in order to justify management’s continuing existence without actually correcting the problem.

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CUvinny February 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I love that you point out how shit I-95 is in an article that fluffs up our road systems.

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CUvinny February 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I love that you point out how shit I-95 is in an article that fluffs up our road systems.

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BigT February 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Where was Sanford for EIGHT years while these roads deteriorated???
And Sanford had the Benefit of Bush’s GREAT economy, not the Obama DISASTER…….
When you have a Gov. who was lost for EIGHT years on the Applachian Trail…there is some ground to make up…

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Smirks February 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Delusion, thy name is Big(o)T…

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BigT February 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Where was Sanford for EIGHT years while these roads deteriorated???
And Sanford had the Benefit of Bush’s GREAT economy, not the Obama DISASTER…….
When you have a Gov. who was lost for EIGHT years on the Applachian Trail…there is some ground to make up…

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Smirks February 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Delusion, thy name is Big(o)T…

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Opaqueortransparent February 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Rode the bumpy I-20 down to Mytle Beach and got that Highway 31 and man is that a sweet ride–smooth and not another car in sight for miles…… great waste of gas money.. and all those 4 lane roads/expressways thru the old military base…

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Opaqueortransparent February 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Rode the bumpy I-20 down to Mytle Beach and got that Highway 31 and man is that a sweet ride–smooth and not another car in sight for miles…… great waste of gas money.. and all those 4 lane roads/expressways thru the old military base…

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stuck in neutral February 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Absolutely ridiculous post. Go drive 95 and you’ll bounce from NC to GA. Go drive to Charleston and you’ll sit in traffic going and coming. Give me a break. As a Glen Beck right winger, you of all people should know that infrastructure is a core function of government and drives economic development.

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stuck in neutral February 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Absolutely ridiculous post. Go drive 95 and you’ll bounce from NC to GA. Go drive to Charleston and you’ll sit in traffic going and coming. Give me a break. As a Glen Beck right winger, you of all people should know that infrastructure is a core function of government and drives economic development.

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John Cecil February 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’ve lived in Charleston area my entire life, 46 years, and am really surprised that the rest of the state will tolerate Bobby Harrell and Chip Limehouse funneling over 600 million for 526 when it’s not even a county priority. Johns Island already has two new four lane bridges and has 18000 residents, and 526 will add two more four lane bridges to a rural island that has no economic significance. Meanwhile 26 only has a total of 4 lanes and is the main highway for port access and Boeing, etc. I always heard the complaints of how Charleston got more than it’s fair share, but when it comes down to it, the rest of the state is all bark and no bite. The only reason 526 was approved is because the tiny beach resort where most of the people live somewhere else, want a new highway to bolster the value of their beach house investment. I also couldn’t help but notice the big Limehouse Properties sign adjacent to Kiawah. It was also never listed on the half cent sales tax that was used as the local funding, which was voter fraud, as the tax wouldn’t have passed it the cost of 526 was listed in context with the other projects that were listed on the ballot. That’s the only reason I’ve been involved with this, as I voted on the 2004 half cent sales tax. It really is quite simple but the campaign to complete 526, paid for by Bobby Harrell’s PAC, resorted to misinformation, name calling, and bullying. He wasn’t even honest or frouthcoming about funnelling money for advertising to promote their pet project. Not to mention, Limehouse voted on the SIB to threaten the county with a 12 million default penality if they maintained their no build vote. When what they should have done was listed the project on the ballot, like all the other projects, recuse themselves if there is a conflict of interest, such as selling land on an island, and been honest about how they are promoting it.

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John Cecil February 22, 2013 at 8:06 am

I’ve lived in Charleston area my entire life, 46 years, and am really surprised that the rest of the state will tolerate Bobby Harrell and Chip Limehouse funneling over 600 million for 526 when it’s not even a county priority. Johns Island already has two new four lane bridges and has 18000 residents, and 526 will add two more four lane bridges to a rural island that has no economic significance. Meanwhile 26 only has a total of 4 lanes and is the main highway for port access and Boeing, etc. I always heard the complaints of how Charleston got more than it’s fair share, but when it comes down to it, the rest of the state is all bark and no bite. The only reason 526 was approved is because the tiny beach resort where most of the people live somewhere else, want a new highway to bolster the value of their beach house investment. I also couldn’t help but notice the big Limehouse Properties sign adjacent to Kiawah. It was also never listed on the half cent sales tax that was used as the local funding, which was voter fraud, as the tax wouldn’t have passed it the cost of 526 was listed in context with the other projects that were listed on the ballot. That’s the only reason I’ve been involved with this, as I voted on the 2004 half cent sales tax. It really is quite simple but the campaign to complete 526, paid for by Bobby Harrell’s PAC, resorted to misinformation, name calling, and bullying. He wasn’t even honest or frouthcoming about funnelling money for advertising to promote their pet project. Not to mention, Limehouse voted on the SIB to threaten the county with a 12 million default penality if they maintained their no build vote. When what they should have done was listed the project on the ballot, like all the other projects, recuse themselves if there is a conflict of interest, such as selling land on an island, and been honest about how they are promoting it.

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SC Southpaw February 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I will remember that our roads are fine next time I cut a tire on a pothole or am stuck in traffic on Interstate 26.

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SC Southpaw February 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I will remember that our roads are fine next time I cut a tire on a pothole or am stuck in traffic on Interstate 26.

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BeaufortTiger February 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Well, FITS got it partially right. He’s at least willing to acknowledge that it’s asinine to have the nation’s fifth longest state-maintained road network in the 40th largest state geographically. He can recognize that this ratio is not fiscally conservative. The next step is to realize that the gas tax has not been raised nor adjusted for inflation in over 25 years. How is that fiscally conservative? A modest 10 cent increase in the gas tax would effectively double SCDOT’s ability to maintain existing roads and infrastructure. It would hardly be noticed.

Regarding I-95’s condition specifically… it is high time that we take advantage of the fact that close to 70% of traffic on that Interstate (outside the Florence area) is through traffic from other states. Let’s slap a toll at the Lake Marion bridge and charge $2 for S.C. residents and $3 for out-of-state residents to pay for the maintenance and widening of the road to six lanes (at least from the I-26 interchange to the Georgia state line).

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BeaufortTiger February 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Well, FITS got it partially right. He’s at least willing to acknowledge that it’s asinine to have the nation’s fifth longest state-maintained road network in the 40th largest state geographically. He can recognize that this ratio is not fiscally conservative. The next step is to realize that the gas tax has not been raised nor adjusted for inflation in over 25 years. How is that fiscally conservative? A modest 10 cent increase in the gas tax would effectively double SCDOT’s ability to maintain existing roads and infrastructure. It would hardly be noticed.

Regarding I-95’s condition specifically… it is high time that we take advantage of the fact that close to 70% of traffic on that Interstate (outside the Florence area) is through traffic from other states. Let’s slap a toll at the Lake Marion bridge and charge $2 for S.C. residents and $3 for out-of-state residents to pay for the maintenance and widening of the road to six lanes (at least from the I-26 interchange to the Georgia state line).

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Cooper River Lazy February 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I know that the bridges in the Upstate, including some going over the interstates, have had to be repaired. I think our secondary roads are pretty bad in the Upstate yet the major highways are in great shape. I think in order to attract business, we need good roads and bridges. The Chamber of Commerce is always talking about the importance of good infrastructure in attracting business from out-of-state companies. Look at ICAR in Greenville. If the Upstate is supposed to become the new Detroit, then we better have great roads to run those cars on.

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Cooper River Lazy February 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I know that the bridges in the Upstate, including some going over the interstates, have had to be repaired. I think our secondary roads are pretty bad in the Upstate yet the major highways are in great shape. I think in order to attract business, we need good roads and bridges. The Chamber of Commerce is always talking about the importance of good infrastructure in attracting business from out-of-state companies. Look at ICAR in Greenville. If the Upstate is supposed to become the new Detroit, then we better have great roads to run those cars on.

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A better SC February 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm

If you want to see the waste this agency has, look at the state salary database at how much all those “engineers” make. Then start calling every one of those people and ask them when was the last time they actually did engineering! A complete joke… They are told by the legislature to contract “everything” but still need those high salaries to do nothing…

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A better SC February 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm

If you want to see the waste this agency has, look at the state salary database at how much all those “engineers” make. Then start calling every one of those people and ask them when was the last time they actually did engineering! A complete joke… They are told by the legislature to contract “everything” but still need those high salaries to do nothing…

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Bobby Harrell Is a Felon February 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Drive State Highway 52 through Florence. It has been in dire need of repaving for several years.

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Bobby Harrell Is a Felon February 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Drive State Highway 52 through Florence. It has been in dire need of repaving for several years.

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Cleveland Steamer February 23, 2013 at 2:15 am

Just try driving from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach, see how many major highways you find. That stretch from Jefferson to MacBee is designed to bilk us city folks. The scenery in Conway and Darlington is “very” historic. The NC beaches are getting more and more of my $. I don’t have to put up with the tourist traps either. At least Charleston is semi real and is all Interstate (as bad a 26 and 95 are).

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Cleveland Steamer February 23, 2013 at 1:15 am

Just try driving from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach, see how many major highways you find. That stretch from Jefferson to MacBee is designed to bilk us city folks. The scenery in Conway and Darlington is “very” historic. The NC beaches are getting more and more of my $. I don’t have to put up with the tourist traps either. At least Charleston is semi real and is all Interstate (as bad a 26 and 95 are).

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surprisesurprise May 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Considering I drive about 200 miles a day on the state’s secondary highways and primary roads I would say that they are in dire need of being fixed and improved, especially in the upstate of South Carolina. When you add in rain and darkness it’s almost impossible to see were the road edge is considering they don’t like to stripe the road as it should be. You shouldn’t have to guess where the edge of the road is when you drive on it. South Carolina has a serious problem with it’s roads. The rural road fatality rate is so much higher than the rest of the nation and it’s no wonder. Just drive on them and you’ll see why.

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surprisesurprise May 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Considering I drive about 200 miles a day on the state’s secondary highways and primary roads I would say that they are in dire need of being fixed and improved, especially in the upstate of South Carolina. When you add in rain and darkness it’s almost impossible to see were the road edge is considering they don’t like to stripe the road as it should be. You shouldn’t have to guess where the edge of the road is when you drive on it. South Carolina has a serious problem with it’s roads. The rural road fatality rate is so much higher than the rest of the nation and it’s no wonder. Just drive on them and you’ll see why.

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