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SC Highway Funding: Flushing Money

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This week South Carolina’s Department of Transportation (SCDOT) approved another $136 million to go to the Interstate 526 boondoggle – one of the most pointless highway projects in the state’s history.

That decision has caused us to take a closer look at South Carolina’s infrastructure – specifically, how it is funded and whether taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment.

Some of the numbers we’ve uncovered are shocking …

Everyone knows South Carolina administers the nation’s fourth-largest highway system – a whopping 41,613 miles of state-maintained roadways. That’s absolutely ridiculous for a state that ranks No. 40 nationally in terms of size (and No. 24 in terms of population), but it’s what happens when politics dictates the process.

Anyway … this year “Republican” Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation borrowing $700 million (including at least $500 million for road and bridge work) to address the state’s “crumbling infrastructure.”

This after her SCDOT was forced to stop all paving and maintenance work due to a cash crunch.

Conventional wisdom is that South Carolina’s infrastructure has been “historically underfunded,” and that lawmakers are now being forced to borrow and spend big dollars to cover the gap.

Is that true, though? Hell no …

According to data compiled by the Reason Foundation, South Carolina ranked No. 2 in the nation in total taxpayer disbursements per mile in 2007. In 2008 and 2009 – the latest years for which data is available – the Palmetto State led the nation in tax money spent per mile of state-maintained roads.

What about bridges? Glad you asked … from 2007-09 South Carolina led the nation in taxpayer disbursements per mile of bridges.

What did this massive investment purchase? Like the state’s government-run education system, not much …

In 2009, South Carolina ranked No. 48 nationally in terms of its fatality rate, No. 23 in terms of its percentage of structurally deficient bridges and No. 37 in urban interstate congestion.

Wow …

Obviously all of this begs a simple question: What in the hell did taxpayers spend all of that money on?

Because it sure as hell wasn’t “infrastructure …”