While the state transportation department faces debt and possible restructuring, a high-profile and bipartisan group of legislators, mayors, and business leaders have teamed up to try to prioritize and plan an upgrade for the state’s infrastructure.
They have formed a South Carolina chapter of Building America’s Future (BAF).
- Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-89), SC House Majority Leader
- Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-107)
- Brad Dean, President/CEO of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
- Lewis Gossett, President/CEO of SC Manufacturers Alliance
- Sen. Larry Grooms (R-37)
- Mayor Randy Halfacre, Town of Lexington
- Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R-118)
- Marty McKee, Vice President, Thrift Development Corp.
- Jake Rasor, President, Whitefords, Inc.
- Mayor Joe Riley, City of Charleston
- Rep. Gary Simrill (R-46)
- Rep. Murrell Smith (R-67)
- Randy Snow, Vice President, United Infrastructure Group, Inc.
- Rep. Leon Stravrinakis (D-119)
- Mayor Billy Swails, Town of Mt. Pleasant
Their concern is that interstates, bridges and even broadband access are lagging, when so much rides on it, says Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill). “South Carolina has been blessed. Look at three tire companies are here now; BF Goodrich, Continental, Michelin. So we’ve got the rubber, we need to roads. And if you look at, logistically, where we are and who we compete with, having the port of Charleston, the upstate, Charlotte, North Carolina, which is right where my district is below that in York County South Carolina, we rely heavily on infrastructure.”
Simrill says the state has been slow in fixing roads and bridges and this group will identify projects that need to happen first. “Thats our whole purpose in trying to bring reform, bring accountability, bring transparency, and really look at a way, especially in the interstate highway system that crosses states, how we can work together to make that happen and really bring it to fruition, says Simrill. “I drove to Charleston…and even on I-26, a heavily travelled road, it’s two lanes each way.”
Charleston Rep. Leon Stavrinakas (D-Chas) a group member, agrees. He says the key is that state leaders are trying to get help without getting money through earmarks.
“We all see that in today’s political environment resources are getting more and more tight and the competition for those dollars gets more and more intense, and it’s important to have bipartisan and unified approach in making sure that you prioritize the most important things that your state needs and that you work together to get those needs met,” says Stavrinakis. “”These are critical, critcal priorities, and whatever funds are out there need to be, you know, reflective of that fact that these priorities are critical, and they need to be met, and we shouldnt have to go seek earmarks to take care of these needs.”
The group has just formed and will be working on what the leaders call “a blueprint to transition to high-tech transportation.”
Simrill says they will work with members of Congress: “We have two senators in our state at the federal level, both Lindsey Graham and Jim Demint, doing an outstanding job for us; but they are at odds when it comes to, for example what we were dealing with with the port. Whether it was an earmark, or not an earmark, and we ended up getting passed over in a lot of those instances. Well, I agree with senator Demint on the principle. Wouldn’t it be better to have both of those gentlemen working as a team to try to bring about infrastructure to our state and not having to use to old political system?”
Simrill says the group will introduce its ideas as early as this legislative session. “If you look at the House’s schedule this is interesting in politics, most of the reforms the governor has asked for, the House has done. So were now waiting on the Senate to act. So once we get that portion moving it’ll move the ball back over,” says Simrill.”