A panel of state legislators slammed the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on Tuesday, saying the agency needs to be more responsive to them and their constituents’ concerns.
Two Aiken County legislators criticized the agency as it requested additional dollars for road maintenance and repairs next year in front of a House budget panel.
State Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, said SCDOT has ignored his questions about constituent concerns, including trash and the location of crossing signs. “They don’t tend to listen to anybody,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting. We, as the House and the Senate, we write their budget. It seems like they would want to try to help us and satisfy our constituents. It seems like it’s falling on deaf ears.”
While State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, pledged to make sure SCDOT continued getting the funds it needs, he also said lawmakers are becoming frustrated with a perceived lack of responsiveness. He cited an example of a railroad crossing being closed without the public being notified in his own district.
Last year, legislators set aside an additional $141 million for the state’s highway system (along with the capacity to issue $500 million in bonds). The plan could lead to up to $1 billion in funding by 2023. However, SCDOT says it needs $1.5 billion each year for 20 years just to get the state’s roads to “good” condition. Gov. Nikki Haley has asked lawmakers to set aside any higher-than-expected tax revenue for road repairs this year. She has refused to support an increase in the state’s gas tax.
Hixon said his constituents are skeptical of giving money for roads unless the agency gets more responsive. “These people want to know that the money they originally spent is being spent correctly,” he said.
Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge brushed off the criticism, saying his staffers work hard with limited resources. “I expected to hear some of these things. That’s just the nature of the beast. I think we’re doing a very good job in DOT to service the community,” he said.