ISSUES 2014: Using local taxes to pay for roads, more

December 31, 2013 

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Traffic on I-26 near its junction with I-20.

FILE PHOTO — THE STATE

  • Paying for roads, more

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New sales taxes are taking a bite out of Midlands wallets for better roads and more.

Richland County is preparing to start spending money raised from a penny-on-the-dollar transportation sales tax, while neighboring Lexington County prepares for a controversial referendum on a similar increase for roads and more.

RICHLAND COUNTY

Initial work should start in Richland County by summer. The tax is estimated to generate $1.07 billion for roads, public transit and trails over 22 years.

Paying the tax means an extra $253 a year for the average family of three in Richland County, experts have said.

In January, Richland County Council will select from among five engineering firms vying to manage the work to pay for road construction and miles of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails.

Most projects were spelled out in the plan approved by voters in November 2012. But council members still must identify $148 million in neighborhood traffic improvements, dirt roads to be paved and suburban road to be resurfaced.

Construction should create and support thousands of jobs, and the county wants to see to it that local firms, minority-owned firms and small companies get preference in contracts and subcontracts.

The tax also is providing a guaranteed source of funding for the Midlands bus system until the year 2035. The system is making improvements and will decide soon on a private company to run the system.

LEXINGTON COUNTY

Meanwhile, an advisory panel is putting together a list of infrastructure needs that could be met by the proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax in Lexington County.

Municipal and county officials are submitting ideas for panel members to select, with the plan slated to go to voters Nov. 4.

An early glimpse at proposals taking shape show that people in Batesburg-Leesville and Lexington want to widen busy intersections, add turn lanes and install sidewalks on local thoroughfares.

Cayce is focusing on ending drainage problems in neighborhoods, while West Columbia wants to replace older lines supplying drinking water.

There’s also interest in new buildings, with Irmo seeking a facility for its public works staff. Pelion wants a Town Hall, an enhanced playground and an extension of a walking trail.

The tax is estimated to generate $35 million a year. It would last eight years and could be renewed. Groceries and prescription medicines would be exempt.

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