Columbia, SC — South Carolina has fewer highway dollars per mile than any other state. We are stretched to the limit and in danger of damaging one of our state’s most important assets.
The state highway system is made of more than 41,000 miles, more than 8,300 bridges, 550,000 traffic signs, 28 welcome centers and rest areas, 70 million square feet of sidewalk and thousands of other components. It belongs to the people of South Carolina. The replacement value is more than $90,000 per licensed driver. It took a century of hard work to achieve that level of investment.
Just like your home, your car or any other capital investment, maintenance must be performed on roads and bridges, or value will be lost. But highway maintenance is often taken for granted, and funding is neglected. Costs multiply when we delay repairs. Those costs are felt in the pockets of businesses and individuals through increased vehicle repairs and lost productivity because of congestion.
According to a 2010 national study, reconstructing a road after 25 years of neglect can cost more than three times the amount needed to preserve the road over the same period.
S.C. Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge has said that without adequate financial resources, his job in the coming years will be simply to “manage the decline of the highway system.” That’s a somber truth that cannot be ignored.
The cost of neglect is clear: deterioration of roads and bridges, reduced highway safety, closed bridges, increased traffic congestion, increased vehicle upkeep and a loss of economic competitiveness. Secondary roads with low traffic volumes may have to be returned to tar-and-gravel status. If this continues, congestion and load restrictions will result in irreparable damage to our economy. Consequently, the cost of getting our roads back to a desirable status will become unattainable, and the quality of life for all South Carolinians will suffer.
While no formula is perfect, our state’s highway-funding prioritization process is recognized for identifying needs and allocating resources. But this attempt at setting priorities will be of little value if South Carolina continues to underfund one of its most valuable assets, its state highway system. The time is now. We must adequately fund our highway infrastructure before it’s too late.
S.C. Department of Transportation