"National Safety Month," as June has been labeled, sees much improvement needed across the entire U.S., which received an infrastructure rating of D+ in 2017 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
For South Carolina, a state with 10.3 percent of its bridges being declared structurally deficient and where driving brings with it a $502 annual price tag per driver, the need for improvements is dire.
"South Carolina has a slightly higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges, as the national average is 9.1 percent," John Fleming, region governor of the American Society of Civil Engineers, told Palmetto Business Daily. "South Carolinians are also in line with the national average when it comes to driving on poor roads, a 'pothole tax' we all pay for sitting in traffic, and needing more frequent car repairs."
Fortunately, the South Carolina government has acknowledged the necessity for changes and for the first time in 30 years has enforced a tax hike on gas. Over the next six years, South Carolina will increase the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, creating an extra $600 million each year to be used toward road improvements, despite resistance to increase the tax in the past.
"This year, the S.C. Senate supported H.3516 with enough votes to override Gov. [Henry] McMaster's anti-tax veto," Tom Leonard, executive director of the Trident CEO Council, a group of private sector business leaders who favor the gas tax, told Palmetto Business Daily.
The question now is what will be done to improve the roads with the funds that have been secured, as policy makers clearly have decisions to make.
"To make the most of our investments, South Carolina needs to consider how to invest this increased funding strategically to ensure our infrastructure is built for the future," Fleming said. "Locally, our tri-county metro area of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties likewise have to prioritize key investment to improve our infrastructure to enhance our safety and accessibility."
According to Leonard, the gas tax should generate $177 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year and by the 10th fiscal year (2026-27) will total $633 million.
Despite the state of roads and overall infrastructure, the state's plan for improvements paves the way for optimism.
"Personally, I believe the South Carolina Department of Transportation and Secretary Christy Hall have the right priorities (just too may priorities)," Leonard said.
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