The Buzz

Richland, Lexington likely to get $138 million for paving, road safety

Roads in Richland and Lexington counties will get at least $138 million for re-paving and to improve safety through 2022.

The proposed State Transportation Improvement Plan, presented Thursday, includes at least $128 million to repave interstates and state roads in Richland and Lexington counties.

Another $10 million would go for safety improvements, including money for roads that have a history of wrecks. However, that amount likely will increase as safety needs are re-assessed annually, state Transportation Department officials said.

The commission that oversees the Transportation Department likely will approve the plan in August, after the public weighs in online and at public meetings.

Revisions will be made as budgets evolve and more money becomes available.

The state plan does not include projects approved in a $4 billion borrowing plan that the S.C. Legislature passed this year.

That plan includes about $1 billion to fix Malfunction Junction over 10 years. The poorly designed, congested interchanges around the intersection of Interstates 20 and 26 have plagued Richland and Lexington motorists for decades.

In addition, nearly 400 bridges will be replaced with the new money.

However, Transportation Department Commission chairman Mike Wooten warned Thursday that S.C. residents are under the mistaken impression the $4 billion will fix the state’s roads.

That money is only about 10 percent of what will be needed over the next 25 years, roads officials say.

"We’re still woefully short in what our state needs to fix our roads," Wooten said, adding, "We’re a long way from where we need to be."

Only some paving projects can start immediately, he said.

Larger projects — requiring the purchase of right of way or obtaining permits — will take time.

"We can’t spend that money immediately," Wooten said.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

Safety improvements

The proposed State Transportation Improvement Plan includes at least $6 million for safety improvements in Richland County and another $4 million for Lexington County. The three projects in each county that will get the most state money, according to the plan, are:

Richland County

$1 million: Intersection, Alpine and Old Percival roads

$1 million: Intersection, McCords Ferry at Vanboklen roads

$925,000: Intersection, Farrow and North Brickyard roads

Lexington County

$1.1 million: Intersection, Fish Hatchery and Busbee roads

$925,000: Jeter Road

$850,000: Wessinger Road

Transportation Commission gives support of Interstate 73

The commission that oversees the S.C. Department of Transportation unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that supports building Interstate 73, a controversial, proposed freeway to Myrtle Beach.

The commission “is supportive of the I-73 project in the Myrtle Beach area due to the project’s economic, safety and traffic flow benefits for the region,” the resolution says.

The resolution cites traffic congestion on U.S. 501 in Horry County. It also notes the Myrtle Beach area gets nearly 18 million visitors a year, “making it the busiest vacation destination in America without interstate access.”

No Transportation Department money will be “diverted to fund this significant project,” the resolution says.

Instead, construction would depend largely on federal money or money from other sources, which could include a toll.

In seeking a federal permit for I-73, the Transportation Department has proposed protecting an 11-mile corridor of streams and swamps near the Little Pee Dee River, a state designated scenic waterway that borders Horry County.

The S.C. Coastal Conservation League opposes building the interstate.

The Transportation commission passed the resolution “based on anecdotal assertions,” Conservation League head Dana Beach said in a statement. “This flies in the face of the transportation reforms that were intended to prioritize state transportation needs objectively.”