The South Carolina Department of Transportation is targeting $38.2 million in federal funds towards roads improvements and it wants to hear from you. The agency is seeking public input through September 15.
Project funding is based on the frequency of travel and on counties’ needs for road and bridge resurfacing. Projects are developed at the county level and are based on factors like road use and area development.
Revenue for federal road improvements exceeded budget projections, according to the agency, which can only use the money to improve federal roads.
County governments have increasingly turned to ballot referendums, letting voters decide whether to increase sales taxes to help pay for roads—particularly unpaved county roads. Most unpaved roads belong to local governments so they won’t be eligible for federal funds.
But statewide, critics of referendums say county officials should use existing resources to improve roadways rather than raising taxes. They also think if taxes are raised, the revenue should be reserved for roads, not recreational uses like bike paths.
Also at issue is the state’s gas tax—16 cents per gallon, which hasn’t been raised since 1987. David Cook, a maintenance engineer with SCDOT wouldn’t comment on whether the state should raise the gas tax. But he did point out that more cars are on the road since 1987, which means more people are buying more gas. Despite better fuel efficiency of modern cars, that means more wear and tear on roadways. It also means there is a need to expand roads to accommodate the traffic.
The state is facing over the next 20 years an estimated shortfall of $30 billion needed to repair its highway system.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who is running for re-election, has said she will reject any gas tax increase and that the state should use existing revenue to fix roads. A plan by her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, includes putting budget surpluses toward infrastructure needs instead of depending primarily on the gas tax.
More information is available on SCDOT’s website.