Setting the table for a debate over how to repair South Carolina’s crumbling roads, the commission that oversees the S.C. Transportation Department approved Friday asking legislators for approval to spend $1.8 billion next year.
Nearly half that $1.8 money — $845 million — would go to maintain and preserve the state’s roads and bridges during the state’s fiscal year that begins next July 1.
Another $591 million would go to address congestion, including widening roads and intersection improvements.
“We are preservation-first as far as our policies go instead of (building) brand new roadways,” said acting Transportation Department chief Christy Hall.
Hall acknowledged previous Transportation budgets were complex, adding this year the agency tried to simplify its presentation and show how it spends its money.
Lawmakers will have to authorize the spending during their upcoming session, which begins in January.
The Transportation Department has said it needs up to $1.5 billion a year in added revenues to repair the state’s battered roads and bridges. Critics of the agency have put that need as low as an added $400 million a year.
Those critics question how much of the Transportation Department’s budget actually goes to pay for maintaining the state’s crumbling roads versus how much is spent to build new highways.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who last spring filibustered a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax to pay for billions in unfunded road repairs, said Hall should be commended for bringing transparency to the agency’s expenditures.
A roads-repair plan will be at the top of state senators’ agenda in January.
Nearly half of the agency’s dollars come from the federal government. The state’s gas tax brings in another $463 million, roughly a third of its revenues.
Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.
Where the money goes
Where the state Transportation Department proposes to spend money next year
Maintaining roads, addressing congestion
$845 million: To maintain and preserve roads and bridges
$591 million: To address congested highways, including widening roads
$120 million: Engineering and project management
$81 million: Debt payments
$58 million: Payroll and fringe benefits for agency workers
$33 million: Planning and mass-transit division
$15 million: Enhancements, including required federal projects, “welcome to” signs and sidewalks
$9 million: Tolls and other expenses