Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost South Carolina motorists a total of $3 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,300 per driver in some areas, according to a new report.
The report released Thursday by the national transportation advocacy group TRIP says the estimated cost is due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. The group states increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in South Carolina.
The TRIP report, “South Carolina Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout South Carolina, 46 percent of major roads and highways (state-maintained Interstate, primary and secondary routes) are in “poor” condition. That is a significant increase from 2008, when 32 percent of the state’s major roads were rated in poor condition. One-fifth of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. South Carolina is also tied with West Virginia for the highest overall traffic fatality rate in the nation.
The TRIP report claims driving on deficient roads costs each South Carolina driver as much as $1,250 per year. The TRIP report also calculated the cost for motorists in the Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville-Spartanburg regions was slightly higher than the statewide average at $1,200 per driver in the Lowcountry and Upstate and $1,300 in the Midlands.
The TRIP report finds that 46 percent of South Carolina’s major roads and highways (state-maintained interstate, primary and secondary routes) have pavements that were rated in 2014 as being in “poor” condition, while an additional 38 percent were in “fair” condition and just 16 percent were in “good” condition.
Traffic congestion is worsening throughout the state, costing drivers a total of $775 million annually in lost time and wasted fuel.
“The South Carolina Department of Transportation manages the 41,000 miles of state funded roads with the third lowest motor fuel user fee in the nation. With an estimated additional $1.5 billion needed per year for the next 25 years to “get to good”, they are currently having to do the best they can with what they have,” said Eric Dickey, vice president of Davis & Floyd, Inc. and chairman of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR).
A total of 21 percent of South Carolina’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Eleven percent of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional ten percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
South Carolina’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.76 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is the highest in the nation (tied with West Virginia) and significantly higher than the national average of 1.13. Traffic crashes in South Carolina claimed the lives of 4,315 people between 2008 and 2012. The fatality rate on South Carolina’s rural roads was 2.99 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2012, which is 61 percent higher than the national rural road average of 1.86 fatalities per 100 million miles.
“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Congress can help by approving a long-term federal surface transportation program that provides adequate funding levels, based on a reliable funding source. If not, South Carolina is going to see its future federal funding threatened, resulting in fewer road and bridge repair projects, loss of jobs, and a burden on the state’s economy.”