July 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

New year, same road problems persist in SC


If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to drive over pothole-free roads in South Carolina, you probably should choose a different goal.

The Nerve’s review of recently released state Department of Transportation records found that since the gas-tax-hike law took effect July 1, 2017, through Nov. 30 of last year, the total dollar amount of completed “pavements” projects statewide remained less than half of the estimated cost of all such projects.

The overall completion rate as of Nov. 30 was about the same when compared to the previous month. The Nerve’s review found that 29 of the state’s 46 counties fell below the 50% mark, including the larger counties of Greenville, Horry, Lexington and Richland.

Comparing October to November, the total dollar amount of completed projects remained unchanged in 26 counties. DOT records show completed-project increases in 12 counties, including nearly $10 million jumps each in Horry and Oconee counties.

For unexplained reasons in the records, the total listed dollar value of finished projects dropped in eight counties from October to November.

In all 46 counties, completed “pavements” projects totaled $528.7 million, or about 45.7% of the approximately $1.16 billion estimated cost of all such projects, The Nerve’s review found.

Meanwhile, DOT continues to sit on fat reserves from revenues collected under the gas-tax-hike law, which raised the state gasoline tax by 12 cents per gallon over six years, and increased other vehicle taxes and fees.

As of Nov. 30, a special fund created with the law had a cash balance of nearly $647.5 million, which represented 42% of the $1.54 billion in total revenues collected since the law took effect, DOT and state comptroller general records show.

Total deposits could nearly pay for all of the listed $1.59 billion in project “commitments” identified by DOT through November.

Lawmakers in passing the gas-tax-hike law promised that the revenues would be used to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, though as The Nerve revealed last month, only one bridge project had been completed through October with that money.

DOT has said 80% of the state’s approximately 42,000 miles of roads needs resurfacing or rebuilding, and identified 465 of 750 “structurally deficient” bridges statewide to be replaced.

But as of Nov. 30, DOT had identified approximately 4,013 miles of “pavements” projects in the state’s 46 counties, which represented about 12% of the total number of miles of state-maintained roads that the agency says needs to be resurfaced or rebuilt.

And of the $1.59 billion in total project “commitments” statewide identified by DOT through November, the agency earmarked about $258.6 million, or 16.2%, for interstate widenings – not for repairing bad roads and bridges.

The South Carolina Policy Council, the parent organization of The Nerve, has contended the gas-tax-hike law was written in a way to allow DOT to divert revenues to the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) to pay off bond debts. The STIB over the years funneled several billion dollars to large construction projects in select counties.

Following is a list of counties in which the total dollar amount of completed “pavements” projects was less than 50% of the estimated cost of all such projects in those counties as of Nov. 30, according to DOT records:

  • York: $18 million (49.7%);
  • Union: $8.2 million (48.6%);
  • McCormick: $3.3 million (48.6%);
  • Clarendon: $7.4 million (47.9%);
  • Kershaw: $9.8 million (47.5%);
  • Bamberg: $4.5 million (47%);
  • Marion: $7.5 million (46.8%);
  • Williamsburg: $9 million (46.6%);
  • Spartanburg: $20.7 million (46.5%);
  • Horry: $36.9 million (46.1%);
  • Colleton: $11.4 million (45.3%);
  • Dillon: $6 million (44.5%);
  • Barnwell: $5.4 million (44.2%);
  • Richland: $16 million (43.4%);
  • Calhoun: $4.9 million (42.9%);
  • Saluda: $6.6 million (40.2%);
  • Marlboro: $4.5 million (37.9%);
  • Greenville: $21.6 million (37.5%);
  • Lexington: $16 million (37%);
  • Florence: $13.3 million (35%);
  • Hampton: $4.3 million (33.2%);
  • Georgetown: $8.3 million (29.6%);
  • Abbeville: $5.4 million (29.3%);
  • Darlington: $4.7 million (28.5%);
  • Aiken: $9.2 million (26.5%);
  • Allendale: $2.9 million (26.1%);
  • Anderson: $14 million (25.4%);
  • Pickens: $5.5 million (21.9%);
  • Newberry: $4.2 million (18.1%)

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

Nerve stories are free to reprint and repost with permission by and credit to The Nerve.


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