The SCDOT Commission’s February meeting was held on Thursday with Chairman Robby Robbins (Dist.1) presiding. The primary focus of the meeting was the presentation of the annual State of the SCDOT report. SCDOT Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall recently gave this report to the Senate Transportation Committee, and Thursday’s presentation to the Commission was unchanged. However, given the time constraints of the Transportation Committee meeting, she was able to provide additional details in her report to the Commission.
Secretary Hall emphasized that one of the top priorities of the 10-year plan was to address pavements and the majority of the new money in the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF) was going towards improving pavements.
Currently, the SCDOT has $417 million invested in pavements (up from $291 million before Act 40), and that number will continue to climb each year. At full implementation of Act 40, the SCDOT plans to have $702 million invested in pavements annually.
Secretary Hall reminded Commissioners that the state had $11 billion worth of pavement needs as a result of 30 years’ worth of backlogged maintenance. While not every road is going to be paved, with the continued increase of investments in the coming years, Hall said she expected the public to see a dramatic increase in construction across the state.
There are 755 structurally deficient bridges and 366 load-restricted bridges in South Carolina. Currently, the state is investing over $100 million in bridges and that number is expected to grow. It is important to note that the additional revenues generated by Act 40 (and deposited into the IMTF) are supplementing the existing bridge program. Secretary Hall emphasized that Act 98 jump-started the bridge program and since passage of Act 98, 71 bridge projects have been completed and more than 50 were under construction.
While the 10-year plan and additional funding will go towards repairing 465 structurally deficient and load-restricted bridges, other bridges that might not be categorized as such will continue to decay over the years. Therefore, the SCDOT will need to assess their strategy for the bridge program over time.
SCDOT has completed over 70 miles of interstate widenings since 2017. In the next 12-18 months, another $2 billion worth of interstate work is expected to begin. This work will be in the Midlands region, with Carolina Crossroads (Malfunction Junction) and a section of I-26.
In 2022, another $3 billion is expected to be underway, with the bulk of the projects in the Charleston region. This includes widening for the existing 526 as well as bridge work that will need to be designed to meet future economic needs (i.e., port containers and population growth).
In addition to these widenings, the agency also continues to work on moving the rural interstate improvement program forward. As we have previously reported, the SCDOT plans to utilize $110 million after the tax credit sunsets in 2022. Over the next few months, SCDOT will be working to recommend ranked projects for Commission approval. Secretary Hall said that they want to continue to move forward with preliminary work so when the money becomes available the projects can start.
Secretary Hall also noted that a lot of the interstate work that is in the pipeline is work that should have been done ten years ago, but the money just wasn’t there to do it.
Congestion Will be the Next Priority
Secretary Hall emphasized the need for any additional funding that the state receives from the federal government or otherwise would need to go to the MPO/COG program so it could be put towards non-interstate capacity needs. Over the past five years, South Carolina has seen a 20% increase in growth and miles traveled.
“This is not getting any better, and it will only get worse,” Hall said.
Currently, there is no funding within SCDOT to cover these needs, and while local option sales taxes help, they are certainly not enough.
Historic Amount of Work Underway
SCDOT continues to tout that the value of road work on the streets has tripled in value. Currently there is $3 billion worth of work under contract across the state and the number is expected to grow. So what is that $3 billion going towards? Here’s a closer look at the allocations based on types of projects/programs:
Pavements are a top priority. With $900 million in direct contracts, as well as $421 allocated to CTCs (which is primarily used for pavement improvements) you can see that pavements make up nearly half of the work.
Remember, 80% of the state’s pavements need repair and those repairs come with an $11 billion price tag. It will certainly take longer than 10 years to #fixscroads. We estimate it will take roughly 20+ years before the vast majority of pavements are in good shape across the state. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. It took decades for our roads to get in this condition and it will certainly take just as long to repair and rebuild them. You can’t #fixscroads overnight!
The next SCDOT Commission meeting is scheduled for March 21, 2019.