SC Highway Funding: Flushing Money

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…

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 …”

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Smirks December 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm Reply
Fedup December 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Roads that are so rough that you can’t hardly ride on them,but they are painting stripes on them and putting reflectors on them and grinding rumble strips ,putting up hundreds and hundreds of signs at intersections that have never had signs,landmark signs,crosswalk striping,and lights, where no one walks,miles of not needed sidewalks,But if you ask them to do some road repair they do not have any money! Someone needs to do an audit of the D.O.T.. If they are getting this money Some Heads need to be fired!!! They sure don’t know how to manage what they do have.

nitrat December 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

They are putting traffic circles all over the state when a 4-way stop with or without flashing lights would do the trick!!!

The Colonel December 7, 2013 at 12:58 am

Boys an girls, I’ve driven all over the world – once you folks from the blinking light bergs* get used to driving with traffic circles you’ll wonder why stop signs were ever invented.
You haven’t lived until you’ve driven through an “8 lane wide, 8 major road, no markings whatsoever, roundabout intersection” in Amman, Jordan where the driving age is apparently “old enough to reach the pedals” and the only vehicle inspection apparently involves ensuring that the vehicle has no functional turn signals or safety equipment and that there are at least four children in the back seat with at least two adults and no seatbelts or car seats…
*Blinking light bergs – towns so small that they don’t even warrant a stop light, just a blinking light.

cullum3 December 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

As someone who has lived in Europe, I am a great fan of traffic circles. In the vast majority of circumstances they improve traffic movement, save on gas consumption, and they make sense. Besides in South Carolina so many people run yellow and red lights you might as well have a traffic circle.

EJB December 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

When I first moved here 21 years ago there were traffic circles all over the place. Different studies and reports said they were a hazard or caused other problems so the state went all in to get rid of the traffic circles. Now they are going bananas putting them back in again. There is one on Piney Grove Road near I26 (just before Harbison) and I’ve ridden on Piney Grove Road and that traffic circle is totally useless. They have also put one on highway 6 a few miles on the Lexington side of Swansea, again I’ve driven that road a bunch of times, again totally useless. Also one on Two Notch Road just off highway one between Lexington and West Columbia, again, totally useless. These three have all been built within the last year or so.

Jackie Chiles December 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm

The one thing I’ve noticed is on the newly paved parts of the interstate, the DOT forgot to put reflectors back. It’s really dangerous, especially at night when raining.

Fedup December 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Sorry about that Jackie,this summer they put new reflectors and striping on tar and gravel road thats so rough that i go 3 miles out of the way to keep from riding on its so rough,no kidding its like riding it a boat!

euwe max December 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

You could always move to Michigan

Jackie Chiles December 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I think you need a passport to go there.

? December 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Only if the UP gets their way. :)

euwe max December 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Nope, you can just walk across. That’s how I got to Texas.

nitrat December 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I have serious qualms about anything that calls itself the “Reason Foundation”.

Yep. Wikipedia says: “The Reason Foundation is an American libertarian research organization[2] founded in 1968 that also publishes the magazine Reason. Based in Los Angeles, it is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that, like other think tanks, produces papers and studies to support a particular set of values. According to its web site, they are “the values of individual freedom and choice, limited government, and market-friendly policies.” ”
FITS, like NPR, you need to realize that ANYTHING that comes out of a ‘think’ tank in the 21st century is a crock…even if it does serve your agenda, it destroys your credibility.

William J. Hamilton July 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm

The Reason Foundation has big plans for privatizing the road system. If the roads get bad enough people will give up and allow them to be sold to massive road owning corporations who will then charge everyone to use them. If you want to make money in the future, you need to be selling things people are forced to buy. Once they own the roads, they just buy all the relevant politicians and they’re in for good. They throw out some charitiable contributions to keep the community leadership quiet as well. Then if you drive around their pay roads, the government just tolls the remaining “free” roads so the paid raids remain profitable. The Reason foundation also opposes public transit, which is the only mobility many people in this state stuck with minimum wage jobs can afford.

Jackie Chiles December 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I don’t get the mentioning of car fatalities with highway spending. In one paragraph, you complain that we have the 4th largest highway system. So we have a lot of roads. I assume that could help correlate into more highway fatalities.

Furthermore, the complaining about fatalities with road spending doesn’t make sense in that stupid drivers on any road will get in accidents. Unless you can directly tie the road fatalities with negligent road construction, you’re just throwing statistics together.

scsweepin December 7, 2013 at 7:42 am

….”you’re just throwing statistics together.”

You aren’t surprised, are you?

euwe max December 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm Reply
The Colonel December 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

I like how you worked the whole “gubamint run education system” thing in there so subtly!

Manray December 7, 2013 at 11:15 am

The GOP has dominated politics in SC for many years, why haven’t they brought their “business savvy” and hallowed free market approach to fixing this situation? Oh, I guess those sacred principles don’t apply when THEY are bellying up to the public trough.

It Has Begun December 7, 2013 at 4:51 pm

The People’s pocketbook is being ‘picked’ by politicians and their cronies. Long overdue to start getting right in their faces and letting them know they are headed for a prison cell. We start with Bobby Harrell. He is South Carolina’s Public Enemy #1 .. then we get Haley and the rest. One government rogue at a time. Along the way, other members of our army of patriots will hunt down the lobbyist and their clients … and do the same exact thing.
Its coming. Laugh all you want … but it is coming with a force of fury.

euwe max December 8, 2013 at 2:01 am

[laughing all I want]

gregory geddings December 8, 2013 at 6:17 am

When I saw the picture attached to this article at first I thought it was about Howie Rich reflecting on his relationship with Will Folks.

venomachine December 9, 2013 at 8:42 am

I’m still trying to decide if 526 is a bigger boondoggle that 73. Honestly, I think 73 is a much bigger boondoggle.

EJB December 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I would tend to agree with you but as I understand it I526 would just take homeowners to their houses that haven’t yet been built and I73 would at least take people to Myrtle Beach five minutes faster (but clog up worse when an accident happens).

ELCID April 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm

This is a very misleading article. The reason SC Tax is so high is that we have nearly every road in SC in the State Highway System. As stated 4th largest State Hwy. system in the country. No other State does that near SC’s size. Other States have local and county roads paid by the locals who use them. SC puts the roads in the State Highway System in order to reduce the number of dirt and under maintained roads. Note: SC has some of the highest quality and best maintained roads in the US. That’s not saying much, as the entire US Highway systems are a corrosion nightmare. Why, because we fund road construction, but never include the money that’s required to maintain them. Hey, it’s not a one shot deal. The true cost of a Highway is never included in the purchase price.


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