More than two years after a flood swamped South Carolina, the state Transportation Department has failed to repair at least 13 Midlands roads that were weakened or washed out by the deluge.
Nine of the roads are in Richland and Lexington counties.
The agency says it did not repair the roads because of legal questions. All of the roads ran over dams, but it is unclear who owns the dams in some cases, officials say. In other cases, the Transportation Department says it knows who the owners are, but they won’t make repairs.
While the agency could condemn the land and rebuild the roads, it has been hesitant to do so, officials said Wednesday.
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“We are not in favor of condemning anyone’s property or taking it from anyone,’’ the Transportation Department’s Andy Leaphart said. “That has been our approach throughout, and it remains our approach.’’
Roads not reopened because of legal questions about dams include Arcadia Lakes Drive in Columbia, Wilton Road and Durham Drive in Lexington County, and Church Camp Road in Calhoun County. Some roads in Clarendon County also have not been fixed since the flood.
State Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, said he’s run out of patience.
Ott has introduced legislation that would force the Transportation Department to make repairs to the 13 roads. The price tag could approach $10 million, according to agency estimates, but Ott said it is time to make repairs. The agency could build bridges, even if the dams are not repaired, Leaphart acknowledged.
“If we don’t do something, these roads aren’t ever going to get fixed,’’ Ott said Wednesday. “I don’t think that’s fair to the folks who live in those particular areas.’’
Ott’s bill, discussed Wednesday in a House committee meeting, drew some concerns from fellow lawmakers about property rights but also questions about whether it was comprehensive enough.
Still, Ott’s bill needs consideration, said state Rep. Stephen Moss, R-Cherokee. Some of the damaged roads were handling 4,000 cars a day, he said.
“It’s imperative we get these roads open,’’ Moss said. “It’s a safety and convenience issue. After two years, I’m thinking it is time we need to act.’’
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote Thursday on Ott’s bill. If it passes, the bill would be sent to the full House for consideration.
Arcadia Lakes Drive is one of the more visible local roads still awaiting repair. The road is a major connector between two of Northeast Richland’s biggest thoroughfares: North Trenholm and Two Notch roads. Motorists make more than 16,000 trips a day on each road.
The Arcadia Lakes Drive dam ran into problems before the 2015 floods because state regulators determined it was unsafe. However, it was battered further during the 2015 storm and flood, making it eligible for repair under Ott’s bill, according to the Transportation Department. Ott’s bill affects only roads shut down because of the 2015 flood.
The road carried about 2,000 cars a day before it was closed. Since the flood, traffic has been routed through a neighborhood.
At Arcadia Lakes Drive, property owners living around a pond behind the dam said they don’t own the structure and don’t have the money to fix it.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Department is preparing to reopen U.S. 21, a major highway running north of Columbia. The road washed out when a dam beneath it broke in the 2015 flood and storm.
Construction is now underway to replace a bridge that ran over a dam, with the completion date targeted for April, according to the highway department.
Roads still closed
Roads that would be targeted for repair under a S.C. House bill
S-9-158 Church Camp Road
S-14-76 Old River Road
S-14-315 Gunter Road
S-32-365 Wilton Road
S-32-495 Durham Drive
S-40-64 Arcadia Lakes Drive
S-40-1575 Arcadia Lakes Drive East
S-40-1261 Rawlinson Road
S-40-1922 Overpond Road