Millions of dollars are flowing into state coffers to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges from the state’s higher gas tax that took effect July 1, officials said Wednesday.
The S.C. Department of Transportation expects roughly $149 million in new money this year, agency head Christy Hall told a state Senate panel Wednesday.
“We are very focused and very grateful” to put the new dollars to work, Hall said, adding the agency has about $3 billion in work on more than 3,200 road projects underway or in the pipeline.
Last year – after more than two years of debate – the Legislature overrode Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of a bill that raised the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax by two cents a year for six years, a total of 12 cents. It also raised other driving fees to fix the state’s roads.
The new law also includes about $100 million in tax breaks.
Once fully phased in, the new law is expected to bring in about $630 million a year for road repairs.
Revenue from the higher gas tax is tracking as expected, Hall told reporters. That money is directed to an infrastructure maintenance trust fund used to pay for the agency’s “ramped up” roads program, she said.
Revenue from the $200 increase in the sales tax cap on vehicles is lagging behind the agency’s projections but not enough to “overly be concerned,” Hall said.
The reason behind that shortfall — of a “few million” dollars — is not clear, she said, adding it could be because of new processes being put in place for those tax collections. The shortfall is not enough to affect any roads programs, Hall said.
The state’s investment in road work is expected to add 25,000 new road and bridge jobs in the next few years, Hall said.
“We’re very pleased with our contracting industry,” Hall told reporters. “They have responded just like we asked them to.”
As temperatures heat up, South Carolinians will start to see the state’s investment in road and bridge work, Hall said. “In the very near future, they’ll be a time when you really, probably, will not be able to leave your house to go to work without seeing some sort of road work underway.”
Hall said that work will be on most S.C. roads — ranging from resurfacing to major interstate projects, including rebuilding Malfunction Junction, near downtown Columbia.
Hall said the agency has done an “outstanding job” on that project, the largest in the Transportation Department’s history.
“It has been deferred, skipped over for more than 10 years on the list,” she said. “It’s past due.”