Late in 2015, Congress broke a 10-year streak of avoiding long-term funding for transportation projects that contributed to the crumbling of infrastructure nationwide.
But in South Carolina, a tax of less than a penny has made all the difference. For more than a decade, Charleston County has been able to fund local road projects using a half-cent sales tax.
“On the heels of unprecedented residential growth in Mount Pleasant, Charleston County was able to successfully deliver the widening of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, which is the main artery serving the businesses and residences in that community,” Rhett Reidenbach, civil engineer and former chief strategy officer for Davis & Floyd, told Palmetto Business Daily. “The investment in our region’s infrastructure has had a positive impact on business.”
A member of the Trident CEO Council, Reidenbach has advocated for another quarter century of the half-cent tax, citing the increases in traffic through Charleston’s port and an increase in tourism since the tax was first implemented. He also cited 176 local projects and 307 resurfacing projects completed with revenues from the tax within the first decade of implementation.
“This is a powerful tool that can be used as match money, and leveraged for additional state and federal money that would normally not be available to a community,” Reidenbach said. “As growth has occurred, the investments in our infrastructure, green space and transit have given us strategies to combat congestion and continue to attract economic development.”
And attract development they have. Since implementation, companies such as Daimler, Boeing and Volvo have invested in the region, bringing with them high-paying jobs and greater support for the businesses in Charleston County, which in turn raises the revenue generated by the tax.
But even with the half-cent tax making it easier to resurface and maintain infrastructure, there are larger issues that Charleston can’t tackle alone.
“The local governments in our state should not lose sight of the fact that the South Carolina Department of Transportation needs $1.3 billion of additional funding statewide to get our existing road system to achieve an acceptable level,” Reidenbach explained. “Transportation funding needs to be multi-faceted to help balance the rise and fall of various sources of revenue.”