Nuckles: SC Highway System Nation’s 33rd Largest, Not Fourth

DEBUNKING THE PRO-GAS TAX SPIN … || By SARAH NUCKLES || Senate president Hugh Leatherman and his allies in the S.C. General Assembly want to raise our gas tax 12 cents per gallon from 48th LOWEST in the nation to 22nd HIGHEST – higher even than neighboring Georgia (which has more…


|| By SARAH NUCKLES || Senate president Hugh Leatherman and his allies in the S.C. General Assembly want to raise our gas tax 12 cents per gallon from 48th LOWEST in the nation to 22nd HIGHEST – higher even than neighboring Georgia (which has more than twice South Carolina’s population and twice the lane miles of road to maintain).  But, South Carolina only ranks 33rd in the nation in lane miles , so why do lawmakers want to raise the gas tax so high?

Because lobbying groups like the S.C. Alliance to Fix our Roads (SCFOR), TRIP and the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) have pounded into the voters’ and legislators’ brains for years that South Carolina has the “4th HIGHEST number of roads in the Nation and the 48th LOWEST gas tax” to maintain them with.  The SCDOT even trumpeted these numbers in its annual report (.pdf here) presented to the legislature last February by the Secretary of Transportation, Janet Oakley.  The report states on page nineteen (in bold red letters) that ours is the fourth largest system, but they place that right next to the lane miles – which leads the reader to believe that the lane miles are also fourth lowest. They are not!

In fact, South Carolina’s lane miles are lower than 32 other states.  Although the figure 41,414 miles and fourth largest road system in the nation have been thrown around a great deal, the facts are substantially different.  Road miles – or centerline miles –  measure only the distance of a road.  Lane miles on the other hand measure the distance and lane count of a road, lending a more accurate measure of the true size of a highway network.

The actual amount of asphalt South Carolina has to maintain – as measured by lane miles, not road miles – ranks 33rd in the nation, not fourth.  This is just another big example of the misrepresentation of the actual status of our road system and the cost to maintain it, i.e. the grossly exaggerated costs to fix our broken roads by consultants/contractors who directly benefit.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says South Carolina has 140,106 lane miles – including urban/rural local roads – a very big difference but, more important, far less lane miles than 32 other States.  Even eliminating the local roads in the FHWA chart still ranks SC at 28th in the nation (.pdf here).

SO – if South Carolina ranks 33rd nationally in road miles to maintain, why are Leatherman and his allies trying to increase our gas tax to the 22nd highest in the nation? Are they ignorant of our state’s true rankings because they have been given misleading information for years?  Or is it politically easier using misleading numbers to get more money for unranked, politically-based expansion projects (like the $100 million for Highway 51 from Leatherman’s hometown of Florence to Pamplico)?  Or for politically motivated projects like I-73, or I-526?  Clearly, maintenance has not been a priority in many years.

If the South Carolina Senate really wants to fix poorly maintained roads as the voters have asked, then it needs to provide the abundance of taxpayer-provided surplus funds it has this year – and estimated for years to come – specifically to resurface bad roads and rebuild bad bridges.  Why should the Senate increase the gas tax when it can raise almost $400 million dollars now and in the future without raising taxes!

State/ Total Lane Miles (Urban and Rural)

1. Texas – 675,580
2. California – 394,608
3. Illinois – 305,872
4. Kansas – 287,100
5. Minnesota – 285,084
6. Missouri – 273,589
7. Georgia – 271,920
8. Florida – 271,024
9. Ohio – 262,851
10. Michigan – 256,806
11. Pennsylvania – 250,199
12. New York – 242,395
13. Wisconsin – 238,025
14. Iowa – 234,793
15. Oklahoma – 234,633
16. North Carolina – 225,168
17. Alabama – 213,068
18. Arkansas – 209,159
19. Indiana – 203,569
20. Tennessee – 202,185
21. Nebraska – 190,716
22. Colorado – 184,289
23. North Dakota – 176,509
24. Washington – 171,031
25. South Dakota – 167,652
26. Kentucky – 165,944
27. Virginia – 161,914
28. Mississippi – 156,999
29. Montana – 152,940
30. New Mexico – 147,600
31. Oregon – 146,468
32. Arizona – 144,393
33. South Carolina – 140,106
34. Louisiana – 130,038
35. Idaho – 98,649
36. Utah – 97,448
37. New Jersey – 85,557
38. Nevada – 85,323
39. West Virginia – 79,891
40. Massachusetts – 76,852
41. Maryland – 71,126
42. Wyoming – 60,454
43. Maine – 46,879
44. Connecticut – 45,744
45. New Hampshire – 33,156
46. Alaska – 31,618
47. Vermont – 29,301
48. Delaware – 13,849
49. Rhode Island – 12,915
50. Hawaii – 9,662
51. District of Columbia – 3,418

Sarah Nuckles served as a South Carolina transportation commissioner from 2008-2012.


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TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 9:36 am

Like all governments, those in this particular one will lie as well to squeeze more money from it’s tax cattle/chattal(HT to Shifty).

We are nothing more than serf’s in a modern version of a feudal state duped into believing we have control via the democratic process- which keeps the rabble from stringing up the parasites in government- because there’s a vote every now and then to quell the anger…until the rabble figure out nothing has changed and then-surprise! Another vote. It’s a brilliant system to protect elected thieves(which most in government are).

It’ doesn’t matter who’s elected, the differences are mostly insignificant.

Bible Thumper May 26, 2015 at 10:29 am

Any suggestions?

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

Yes, get rid of government.

Okay... May 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

Any suggestions that will actually happen, ever?

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm

That’s the only solution.

thinkmore May 26, 2015 at 12:42 pm

How about getting rid of government in a certain way…toll roads and still tax gas at the regular consumer tax rate 5%.

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Any removal of any government in the net, is a path to improvement.

If you want a solution, get rid of all of it.

If you don’t believe that’s possible, you should continue to remove as much gov’t as possible and give it some time to see the results…and if it works…remove some more and keep going no matter what you “think” will happen…instead focus on the results.

Limbaughsaphatkhunt May 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm

That my friend…will give you Somalia. They have…how should I put it….very limited government indeed.

On the plus side, you get to live out the childhood dream of being a pirate everyday if you want.

shifty henry May 26, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Why are pirates called pirates?
Cause they arrrrr….

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 11:16 pm

“Why are pirates called pirates?”

“What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do
it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

shifty henry May 27, 2015 at 12:25 am

From their flying jibs to the mainmasts to the bulwarks and bulkheads, the pirate ship was the most feared and revered sailing craft to ever break a sailor’s rum-filled haze.
Once these pirate ships were bought or stolen from legitimate sources the were usually modified for speed with four-barrel carburetors, glass pack mufflers and a low gear ratio. The pirate ships were also packed with crewmen that were tasked with doing the fighting and taking over other ships taken in battle.

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 11:15 pm

As you already know, Somalia is filled with little governments/fiefdoms- in fact, it’s very similar to SC.

Since you bring up piirates, I’ll quote St. Augustine prior to his infamous “pirate trial” quote:

“Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms?”

Sounds exactly like both SC and The Feds.

So No Solutions? May 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

No it isn’t.

TroubleBaby May 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Yes it is.

CNSYD May 26, 2015 at 9:44 am

Most “lists” are bogus or why else would Hawaii have an interstate highway.

Nölff May 26, 2015 at 10:03 am

SCDOT could fix existing roads instead of putting up all these new circle loops at intersections. They are popping up everywhere in Greenville. The potholes ain’t going anywhere.

jimlewisowb May 26, 2015 at 10:05 am

“….. $100 million for Highway 51 from Leatherman’s hometown of Florence to Pamplico….”

Wait one damn minute, enough is enough – everyone knows that this project is slated to be the Official Funeral Cortege Route of Senator Leatherpecker when he passes

After death Senator Leatherpecker’s botoxed remains will be dropped into a giant hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar, placed onto a wheeled tobacco sled to be pulled by a team of sixteen miniature donkeys from Pamplico to Florence

Upon arrival in Florence, Senator Leatherpecker’s remains will be entombed in the recently constructed Arc deFucked deTaxpayers Daily along side those of his Personal Dingleberry Sir Reynolds Williams who is under contract to die within 30 seconds of Senator Leatherpecker’s last breath or last crap whichever comes first

C’MON Ms Nuckles, show a little respect

ted May 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Well done, sir.

Bobd1939 May 26, 2015 at 10:15 am

There are two issues here: (1) how much money is collected (2) how well that money is being used. To equal a dollar in taxes collected in 1988 you would need to collect $2.01 dollars today. This is based on inflation using the CPI. However, another important fact that impacts the cost of highway construction and repairs is the price of oil (the base for asphalt. Using the CPI the price of oil should only be $30 dollars a barrel. Other factors include the weight/mileage of vehicles today versus 1988. To boil the money collected issue down we need only a few numbers for the two years being compared. How much money was collected in gas taxes in 1988 and how much in 2014. Then how many miles of roads were being maintained in 1988 and 2014. Of course money collected is not money given to DOT Is money being siphoned for other uses??? The next question is how the money is being used by SCDOT. There are a range of issues here which include what types of projects are being implemented to how effective the money allocated to these projects is used. A good number to see would be the administrative cost per mile of roads (I would used the term “Management Cost, but that term would be hard to apply to DOT) in 2014 compared to 1988. As for the tax issue in Georgia, their last increase was two or three years ago. The “PROBLEM” is not the amount of money collected or SCDOT, it is that big old granite outhouse at the intersection of Main and Gervis streets.

Counting Cars May 26, 2015 at 11:52 am

Fewer lanes mean more vehicles per lane, therefore, more repairs and repaving to undertake.

vicupstate May 26, 2015 at 1:10 pm

FITS has used the ‘4th in the nation’ stat multiple times to demonstrate that SC has built too many roads for such a small (population and geography) state.

So I guess he is admitting that was a a false narrative?

Mark May 26, 2015 at 1:37 pm

No new taxes or increases till you can say, out loud, “I trust my state government.” When you can do that, and not get struck down by lightening, then by all means pray for a gas tax.

Speaking for 90% of the non-road builders, graders, concrete makers, and elected officials I can say without a doubt: we don’t trust you and keep your hands off my wallet!

Legislature full of criminals May 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

1,000 of SC bridges are in need of repair and modernization. When another collapses and people are injured or killed, we need to charge, arrest, and prosecute those in the legislature and SCDOT for criminal negligence.

Limbaughsaphatkhunt May 26, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Ah but you see the legislature will probably pass a law that excludes them from lawsuits and caps the maximum payout for a lawsuit at like $50,000. They will claim they did it b/c those damn “trial lawyers” are all liberals trying to take your tax dollars.

DebraAJanelle May 27, 2015 at 4:45 am

??? $73.. per-hr @mi23//


Limbaughsaphatkhunt May 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Sarah, you’re right. Let’s do nothing. It will all magically sort itself out I’m sure.

9" May 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm

More bullshit Fits ‘word problems’/

Beartrkkr May 27, 2015 at 7:19 pm Reply
Better Roadways June 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

I’m more bothered by their determination to turn thousands of miles to the counties. These counties statewide are NOT structured to handle road maintenance even if they have the money to pave every single one of these roads. The adjustment that is needed is that the state should be taking over MORE roads for routine maintenance while transferring more construction authority to the local governments. In fact, only a handful of counties should even be maintaining roads at all, and in those counties they should have engineering and traffic control closely supervised by the state. The mistake that South Carolina made years ago was that they did not just go ahead and take over the remaining county roads. North Carolina has much better roads, and Virginia took charge of their issues since only two counties in that state are in the road business. It’s obvious to me that all the road contractors hate working with the state government, because they don’t like to work with state standards. Counties and cities are lazy and don’t invest in public safety once they’ve gotten the politically important projects done. States like Georgia prove that where local government is blindly trusted to control roads as they choose. If the state isn’t going to raise taxes dramatically, they at least need to let local governments raise taxes so they can construct and repave roads while relying on the state for day-to-day maintenance.


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