Spending an added $200 million a year would stop the decay of S.C. bridges and pavement on the state’s roads, S.C. roads chief Christy Hall told state senators Tuesday.
The added money also would pay to improve some secondary roads that are not eligible for federal money and improve routine maintenance by the state Transportation Department, according to a presentation Hall gave senators Tuesday.
At the peak of a 3 1/2-hour-long Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, more than 30 of the Senate’s 46 members were listening to Transportation Department leaders discuss how their agency operates.
The agency’s budget and the structure of the commission that oversees the Transportation Department were questioned by senators, who will debate a plan to increase the state’s gas tax to pay for repairs to the state’s crumbling roads as early as next week.
Hall previously had said it would take an added $1.2 billion a year to bring South Carolina’s existing roads into perfect condition, a higher level than stopping decay. Of that, $65 million a year would go to improve to “good” condition 95 percent of the pavement on the state’s interstates. About two-thirds of that pavement was in good condition in 2014.
A starting point for the roads debate would be to agree to spend $65 million on interstates from the added $1.2 billion that lawmakers have to spend this year, said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.
Meanwhile, Mike Wooten, chairman of the S.C. Department of Transportation commission, said horse trading over roads projects has not happened since he has been on that oversight board. Wooten said he gets about eight calls a week from constituents and legislators about potholes or traffic signals.
Davis,who has pushed for the governor to appoint the roads commission, said he is uncomfortable there is too much deference to legislators who call transportation commissioners, adding those commissioners owe allegiance to the legislators who elect them.
Wooten responded that legislators do not have undue influence.