Updated April 28
The Senate approved on Wednesday a $2.2 billion borrowing package to fix roads, 34 to 4.
The funding is aimed at eliminating the state’s structurally deficient bridges and improving existing Interstates, including Malfunction Junction—Columbia’s pitted and dysfunctional interchanges around Interstates 20 and 26.
Under the plan, the State Infrastructure Bank would issue bonds, but would be prohibited from determining how the funds are used.
The SIB has become increasingly controversial recently, garnering criticism for projects critics say are based on politics. Instead, the SCDOT would be responsible for identifying projects approved since July 2013 and based on counties’ needs.
The plan diverts $200 million from the general fund for roads. And it redirects fees paid to the Department of Motor Vehicles and funding from the SCDOT to fund roads.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, heads the Senate Finance Committee, which introduced the bill. He called the bill a “good first step,” but said it wasn’t a permanent fix.
The plan would buy the state at least two years to get its crumbling infrastructure under control, at which point lawmakers will have to determine a permanent funding stream for roads, he said. “This is one of the greatest steps we’ve ever seen.”
A group of conservative senators criticized the bill because it would increase debt and exclude attempts at reforming the state’s transportation agencies.
Funding for new roads construction, and new revenue-boosting fees and taxes are also excluded from the plan.