The Buzz

After hundreds of millions spent on SC roads – where are the orange cones?

THE STATE

New orange cones are few and far between.

Yet S.C. lawmakers have touted their band-aid approach to fixing roads for the past two years.

They sent nearly $300 million in new money to counties for road-repairs and approved borrowing about $200 million a year to yield another $4 billion in state transportation projects.

But drivers have seen few new work zones pop up and are hitting the same pot holes.

Why?

Because it takes time to fix a road or replace a bridge.

For example, only about 6 percent — or $12.6 million — of the $217 million counties received in 2015-16 has been spent.

However, another 88 percent — or $190.8 million — has been committed to road projects.

It takes about two years after the state or counties receive money before people will see roads being fixed, said Eric Dickey, an engineer with Davis and Floyd and past chairman of the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads.

So what is the time-consuming process? Bear with The Buzz – this might sound like engineer speak.

First comes the state designing the road or bridge project or hiring an engineering firm to do the work. Second comes environmental study and permitting.

Later, the state or county may need to purchase right-of-way (permission to extend a roadway into someone’s front yard, for example), or work with water, sewer or power companies to move utilities.

Only then can a contractor be hired to start construction, bringing with them the orange cones.

Over the next decade, the S.C. Department of Transportation expects to complete about $4 billion in repairs to the state’s crumbling roads and bridges with the new borrowing approved this year.

Re-paving projects are the quickest to get underway, because they are simpler than replacing a bridge or widening an interstate, said Transportation Department official Leland Colvin.

Though speeding, that paving likely will not begin until next summer, Colvin said.

Don’t expect to see new bridge construction for at least two years, he said.

And drivers familiar with Malfunction Junction, don’t hold your breath.

The contract to fix the poorly designed, congested interchanges where Interstates 20 and 26 meet in the Midlands is not expected to be approved until 2019.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

  Comments