The state Transportation Department is planning to deliver $5 billion in interstate projects over the next 10 years, agency secretary, Christy Hall said Wednesday.
The plan would revamp 140 miles of the state’s approximately 900 interstate miles, she told the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board.
Underway are $1 billion in road projects already approved by the STIB, including four major improvements along I-85 in the Upstate, I-20 in the Midlands, and Upstate Highway 385.
The remainder of the funds must be formally approved by the STIB and the Joint Bond Review Committee in 2017.
Atop SCDOT’s priority list is improving Malfunction Junction, a dysfunctional set of interchanges along I-26 in the Midlands. The $1.5 billion project has topped the agency’s priority list for nearly a decade. The cost more than doubles the total cost of Charleston’s $650 million Ravenel Bridge project, which is widely considered to be the STIB’s flagship.
Funded by a combination of federal, STIB bonds and funds the SCDOT has on-hand, the agency plans to start the I-26 project in 2019.
Citing the interstate projects currently underway, former Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, took exception to a lack of emphasis on projects in the Lowcountry.
Fellow board member and SCDOT Board chairman, Mike Wooten said the agency’s ranking system was tried and proven, but that funding was the real issue. “What we’re trying to do here is what’s best for the state,” he said. “We need a more sustainable funding source for DOT.”
House and Senate leaders, including York Republican Rep. Gary Simrill, have pledged to work toward a permanent funding stream for infrastructure when they return in January. Any plan by leadership will likely come in the form of a gas tax increase. A member of the board, Simrill is also the House Majority Leader.
Lawmakers in 2016 approved a measure to leverage car sales taxes and fees into more than $2 billion in bonds. The $215 million in fees is set to fund resurfacing, bridges and interstate widening.
Wooten said transportation officials’ greatest concern will be managing public expectations when people hear about money flowing through the SCDOT for roads, but don’t see roadwork underway.
“This is going to take time,” he said.