The Buzz

House panel merges plans to borrow for road repairs, reform roads agency

A S.C. House panel Tuesday merged a plan to borrow more than $4 billion for road-repair projects with proposed changes to the structure of the state Transportation Department.

The resulting bill could be what lawmakers pass this year as a stop-gap roads fix.

The House panel took the road-financing proposal and added proposed changes to the commission that oversees the Transportation Department. That commission now is legislatively controlled. But, under the proposed restructuring, the eight-member commission would be appointed by the governor.

Some of the added road-repair money would be used to fix Malfunction Junction, the poorly designed, congested interchanges around the intersection of Interstates 20 and 26.

However, the added money could not be used to build any new roads, including proposals to extend Interstate 526 in Charleston or build Interstate 73 to Myrtle Beach. That prohibition appeals to anti-growth coastal conservation groups and others, who want existing roads repaired before new ones are built.