By Paul Gable
A bill introduced into the S.C. Senate last week provides hope for transportation reform in the state by dissolving the State Infrastructure Bank and folding its duties into the S.C. Department of Transportation.
The bi-partisan transportation reform bill, S-209, is co-sponsored by Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) and Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw). It proposes to restructure the state’s transportation agencies, better coordinate the highway construction process and eliminate irresponsible over-borrowing.
Peeler said the bill was needed to make sure road funding was a merit based and need based process.
“The SIB has been force feeding asphalt to the coast, while the Upstate and many rural areas starve,” Peeler said. “It just doesn’t make sense to have one state agency building expensive new roads when we can’t even keep up with our current maintenance needs. I’m pleased to have bi-partisan support on a much-needed reform that will help get the politics out of road building.”
Sheheen said “we must give priority to fixing our existing roads and bringing accountability to our government.”
Consider these points:
· The majority of SC roads are in “poor” or “very poor” condition
· SCDOT maintains 41 thousand miles of roads or 62% of the state’s roads, national avg. is 19%
· SCDOT needs over $ 1.4 billion per year for 20 years ($29 billion) to get our roads to “good”
· SCDOT annual budget is $1.3 billion
· SC has a shadow SCDOT the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB), provides money to large transportation projects with no transparency, accountability or prioritization.
· SIB board politically driven, 4 of the 7 board members appointed by the Speaker of House and Senate Pro Tem.
· SIB allocated $4.1 billion since 1997, Horry and Charleston each received over $2 billion, 35 counties have received nothing.
· SIB has ZERO bonding capacity today, but has promised future bonding capacity to two road projects.
In addition to transforming state transportation agencies, the bill would prioritize road maintenance over new road construction in most instances.
This is a way of ending the politically charged debate over the proposed I-73 and use state transportation resources where they are needed most – on our existing, crumbling roads and bridges.
Our roads are falling apart while billions of dollars in state and federal funds are being misspent on unneeded, politically-driven road projects.