The ten-year strategic plan for the South Carolina Department of Transportation to replace and repair aging roads and bridges finished its first year ahead of schedule and at record levels, according to the department.
“It leverages our new funds invested in roads along with our existing funds and federal funds to address some major targeted areas,” SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said. “Such as rural road safety, paving projects, bridge replacement projects and interstate widening projects.”
Hall said the increase in projects is a result in revenues from an increase in the state gas tax passed by lawmakers last year.
“It’s a record-breaking year for us in regard to how many road contracts are active,” Hall said. “Currently we have about $3 billion worth of highway work on the streets right now. Our typical contracting level is $1 billion (annually).”
The 10-Year Plan focuses on four issues: rural road safety improvements, paving projects, bridge repair and replacement and interstate widening projects.
“Our top priority is to invest in rural road safety,” she said. “We actually lead the nation in fatality rate on our rural highways and so we identified and developed a plan to specifically target at least 100 miles a year of improving safety along our rural roads in the state,” Hall said. In the first year, the goal was surpassed with 187 miles improved.
Before and after photos of R.B. Baker Drive in Chapin. pic.twitter.com/2uZXV1yKyl
— SCDOT (@SCDOTPress) June 18, 2018
Hall said South Carolina has the fourth-largest highway system in the nation.
“That road network is in very poor condition statewide due to underinvestment over three decades or more,” she said.
Lexington County Roads that were at the top of the paving priority list while waiting for the new revenue from the 2017 Roads Bill have been completed.
R.B. Baker Drive in Chapin, Saturn Parkway & Fernandina Road in the St. Andrews-Irmo area. pic.twitter.com/xnKJR8WeB4
— SCDOT (@SCDOTPress) June 18, 2018
SCDOT is responsible for 8,431 bridges. 92 percent of the state’s bridges are in good structural health. The 10-Year Plan is targeting the remaining 8 percent of the state’s bridges that have weight limits or are classified as structurally deficient on major highways.
To accomplish this goal, SCDOT has doubled the funding allocated to bridge replacements. The 10-year goal is to replace 465 bridges in the restricted or deficient categories. The plan for the next year is to have another 41 bridge replacements under construction.
In regard to interstate widening, Hall said, “We’re at least 10 years behind on doing the widening projects that are needed across the state.”
At least $5 billion is planned for interstate widening over the next 10 years. A $1 billion project is underway on the I-85 corridor. Within the next 12 to18 months, another project costing more than $1 billion will start in the Midlands with the Malfunction Junction project. Following those projects will be the improvements on I -526 in the Lowcountry.
Hall said the DOT has met or exceeded its goals for the year in completing the projects: 2,200 miles of roads in all counties are under contract to be repaved, 51 bridges are under contract for repair or replacement, $1 billion in contracts have been allocated for interstate widening and, as mentioned previously, 187 miles of rural roads were improved.
“We are seeing improvement on our paving conditions ear year, a little bit ahead of schedule of what we’d see year after year,” Hall said.
The Secretary said the progress is the result of efficient organization and planning, which started two years ago.
“When the General Assembly adopted the gas tax increase we knew exactly where we were going to apply it and so everybody, all efforts internally, as well as our contracting industry, we all knew where we were going to head, where we were going and what our priorities were going to be so we could all ramp up together and get the work done,” she said.
“We have an analytical, not a political process that we use to select projects to make sure that our projects are based on the greatest need for those categories, not based on politics,” she said.
Click here for more information on the SCDOT 10 year plan, its projects and their progress.