Rotarians hear about state’s road priorities
FLORENCE, S.C. – The increased gas taxes have allowed the South Carolina Department of Transportation to focus its efforts on rebuilding and improving the state’s infrastructure.
SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin told the Florence Rotary Club on Monday that his department would be focused on paving of roads, the rural road safety program, improving the state’s bridges and improving the “pinch points” along the Interstate highways in the Palmetto State.
Approximately 80 percent of the state’s roads need some sort of repair, according to Colvin.
Colvin said South Carolina had the highest incidences of fatalities along its roads in the United States. He said the department would be focusing its efforts on the No. 1 cause of fatalities: roadway departure. He said the department is working on rumble strips and increasing the size of road shoulders.
He also said the state’s bridge efforts are concentrated on eliminating load-restricted bridges, which are mostly along rural routes, and improving the state’s structurally deficient bridges.
Pinch points are where Interstates drop from six lanes to four.
Colvin added that the projects started by the SCDOT were mostly on time.
Colvin said the gas tax increases have allowed SCDOT to let out $3 billion in construction projects across the state as compared to $1 billion previously. He added he expected the number to rise to $5 billion within the next 18 to 24 months.
Before July 1, 2017, South Carolina Code imposed a motor fuel user fee of 16 cents per gallon on all gasoline and diesel fuels purchased in the state. In 2017, the General Assembly, despite a veto by Gov. Henry McMaster, passed a gas tax increase that will raise the motor fuel user fee by two cents each year until 2022, leaving the fee at 28 cents per gallon.
Colvin explained the gradual increase as a way of allowing the private construction companies working on SCDOT contracts to keep up with the increase in projects.
The fee of 16 cents was the second lowest in the nation behind Alaska’s tax of 12.75 cents, and it had not been raised since 1987. Once complete, the fee of 28 cents per gallon will be the 24th highest fee in the nation but below the national average of 31 cents per gallon.
There are federal taxes of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. South Carolina also charges another 0.75 cents per gallon in other taxes, including a 0.50 cent environmental impact fee and a 0.25 cent per gallon inspection fee.