September 3, 2014

AAA: Number of substandard bridges declining, slightly, in SC

SCDOT says construction crews are currently working to replace this one-lane truss bridge near the town of Enoree. Work will finish in July 2015.

SCDOT says construction crews are currently working to replace this one-lane truss bridge near the town of Enoree. Work will finish in July 2015.

A new report found that slightly fewer of South Carolina’s bridges are considered obsolete or deficient, but more than one in every five are still considered substandard.

The report released Wednesday by AAA Carolinas examined the state’s 9,200 bridges and found about 21 percent (1,828 overall) are considered “substandard,” which means they are not designed to handle the traffic volume they see each day. That was a small decrease from the 2012 report, when 1,880 bridges were classified as substandard. The national average is 24 percent.

Substandard bridges fall under two categories by federal guidelines: structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient is defined as “being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight.” Functionally obsolete is defined as “having inadequate design for current traffic volume.” The designation does not mean the bridges are unsafe.

“South Carolina’s bridges have improved. They’ve gone from 23 percent to this year being around 20-21 percent,” AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s a small increase but, hey, it’s an improvement.” [Read more...]

Boeing to assemble new Dreamliner version only in SC

The 787-10 will be longer than Boeing's 787 jetliner currently assembled at the North Charleston site (File)

The 787-10 will be longer than Boeing’s 787 jetliner currently assembled at the North Charleston site (File)

Boeing plans to build a new larger version of its 787 Dreamliner exclusively at its North Charleston facility, the aerospace giant announced Wednesday.

The new 787-10 is longer than the Dreamliners currently being assembled at the company’s South Carolina site, which opened in 2011. The first plane is scheduled to be assembled beginning in 2017.

“We looked at all our options and found the most efficient and effective solution is to build the 787-10 at Boeing South Carolina,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and general manager for the 787 program Larry Loftis said in a statement. “This will allow us to balance 787 production across the North Charleston and Everett sites as we increase production rates. We’re happy with our growth and success in South Carolina, and the continued success at both sites gives us confidence in our plan going forward.”

The announcement was also significant because it marks the first time Boeing has assembled an jetliner model entirely with nonunion workers. The North Charleston site had been assembling Boeing’s current Dreamliner version with workers in Everett, Washington.

Boeing officials said the South Carolina final assembly plant will gradually increase from three 787s per month currently to five per month in 2016 and seven per month by the end of the decade.

In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley called the announcement “huge” for South Carolina. “That Boeing is committing the future of the Dreamliner to our state – the first place, ever, outside of Washington State that Boeing has built a commercial airplane – lets the whole world know that South Carolina workers are the best around. The success that Boeing South Carolina has become in less than five years is a testament to the Boeing leadership and above all, the Boeing employees whose talent and dedication make all of us so proud. It truly is another great day in South Carolina.”

Cleanup continues after Spartanburg train derailment

Crews are now in the process of cleaning up after a train containing highly flammable ethanol derailed near Spartanburg early Friday morning.

Spartanburg Fire Department officials say the 90-car CSX train had left Pelzer and was on its way to Decatur, Illinois when three of its cars left the track around 1:30 a.m. near downtown Spartanburg between W. Main Street and Henry Street. Hazmat crews have closed off the area, but say none of the cars are leaking at this time.

No one was injured and no evacuations have been ordered at this time. Fire Chief Marion Blackwell said the situation could have been much more serious.

“We could have had a spill, a release of the product from the container, we could have had a fire,” he told reporters on the scene. “A lot of things could have went wrong and didn’t. We’re very fortunate.”

CSX officials said they are investigating the cause of the accident.

The hazmat crews are keeping an eye on the overturned cars’ pressure valves. CSX is sending a second train to haul off the remaining undamaged cars.

Ed Jenson contributed to this report

Deal reached to eventually reopen Myrtle Beach region’s only rail line

Carolina_Southern_RailroadIt has been three years since the Carolina Southern Railroad halted operations in the Pee Dee, cutting off the Myrtle Beach area’s only rail access to the outside world. But local officials say a new settlement clears the way to eventually resume service once again.

Carolina Southern halted operations along 93 miles of rail in 2011, after the Federal Rail Administration declared some of its bridges unsafe for travel. Owner Ken Pippin had said his company could not afford the necessary repairs and failed in its application for federal grant funds.

As a result, officials in Marion, Horry, and Columbus, NC counties saw their region’s fledgling industrial sector suffer from no rail access. Manufacturers had to use less cost-effective trucks to move cargo, according to former Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Council chair Doug Wendel.

“Railway is very critical to attract manufacturing organizations… that they can ship raw materials in (and) finished products out in a very cost-effective and efficient manner,” he said.

[Read more...]

Sheheen’s road funding proposal rejects gas tax


State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen said Tuesday that he does not think South Carolina should increase its gas tax to pay for badly-needed road repairs. Instead he is pushing a plan that would borrow about $500 million and redirect millions more from elsewhere in the state budget.

Sheheen released his plan to improve South Carolina roads on Tuesday, basing it partly off recommendations he previously made in his book “The Right Way.” The proposal calls for the state to issue an estimated $500 million in bonds to pay for immediate work. It also calls on the legislature to dedicate five percent of the general fund budget on top of the approximately $500 million it collects in gas tax revenue each year. Sheheen said he also wants state officials to consider other means to expand funding, including possible tolls to repair and widen Interstate 95, or a new tax on out-of-state trucks that travel South Carolina highways.

But he rejected any increase to South Carolina’s lowest-in-the-nation 17-cent fuel tax. “The gas tax is a declining source of revenue,” he told reporters, adding that vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient. “It’s why we’re in the mess we’re in now, because we solely rely on it. If all we do is rely on the gas tax, we’ll be right back having this discussion five years from now (or) ten years from now.”

Sheheen is challenging Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who has previously said she will propose a plan to increase road funding when state legislators return in January.

[Read more...]