February 28, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Throwback: Who owns this road?

pothole in road

Either the city or the county or the state. Or no one.

In November of 2015 we presented the communication below that we received from a reader. It seems sadly not only still timely but perhaps timeless.

Certainly now, as we anticipate another legislative session in which there will be much talk of the need to “fix our crumbling infrastructure” – something anyone who’s driven South Carolina roads can agree is a problem – this is worth revisiting. The catch is that many infrastructure fixes will depend on raising revenue to give to the Department of Transportation — which is more concerned with building new roads than maintaining the old.

Of all the tips and anecdotes we receive, probably the majority have to do with the Department of Transportation. Whether that’s because roads affect our lives more directly than, say, tourism or social welfare, or because DOT is a rambling wreck of a state agency, we don’t know.

In any case, this one is one of our favorites. It illustrates nicely the contention of many critics of South Carolina’s transportation system that the state owns too many roads – so many that it can’t repair the vast majority of them. So many, indeed, that state officials can’t keep track of which ones the state owns and which ones it doesn’t.

We live at the intersection of two roads in our neighborhood. Both of the roads are in pretty bad shape, but one in particular is literally falling apart. My husband is convinced that it has damaged both our cars. (The engine mount broke on his truck last month!) There are potholes one or two feet across. Some neighbors have filled them with sand, but that’s a temporary fix. So we called DOT. DOT said the county owns the road. So we called the county office.

They said the city owns the road. We called the city, and – guess what! – the lady at the city office says the state owns the road. We think the state owns the road, because the roads at either end are state-owned. But who knows? Maybe no one owns it, and somebody should buy it and sell it to the state! The downside is that it doesn’t look like those potholes are going to be repaired any time soon.

If you have a story you’d like to see on The Nerve – or just a rant – send it to us at news@thenerve.org.

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The Nerve