SCDOT Highlights Progress In an effort to keep the public aware of the progress being made post-Act 40, the SCDOT has launched a new page on their website to promote the progress that has been made on the agency's 10-year plan. SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall highlighted the agency’s progress at our annual meeting and now it is summarized on the agency’s home page for the public to follow.
As we enter 2019, here’s a look back at some of the actions of the SCDOT Commission and some of the headlines over the past year.
SC Voters Support Road Funding 2018 was an election year and we saw many legislators who supported Act 40 face opposition. Many were targeted either by opponents or outside groups during the primary elections for their support of the bill. Based on SCFOR’s review of the elections, legislators who supported road funding and faced candidates who strongly opposed the increase in the gas tax were successfully reelected – most by very large margins. (This trend is one that can be seen nationally as well.)
Funding South Carolina’s transportation infrastructure is a multifaceted issue and unfortunately, campaigns tend to downplay the complexity of it all. The good news is, voters have clearly paid attention over the past few years and the educational efforts of SCFOR and our allies continues to pay off.
Still a Top Issue: Not only did roads and bridges top Winthrop's annual issues/voter survey earlier this year, many of the freshmen legislators that SCFOR has spoken with have also said that infrastructure was the #1 issue their constituents were concerned about. This is why it is so important that SCFOR continues to educate our elected officials about the importance of infrastructure investment!
SCDOT FY19/20 Budget The SCDOT Commission approved the FY19/20 budget in September. The $2.611 Billion spending plan dedicates a significant portion of spending to improvements, with nearly 50% of expenditures going towards maintenance/preservation and 38% going to capacity improvements.Full coverage of the budget can be found here.
Updated TAMP Targets SAFETY: The Commission approved recommendations in March that would update the 10-year safety targets and funding allocations within the Safety program component of the Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP) to address the emphasis areas of roadway departure, intersections/other high-risk locations, and vulnerable roadway users. The SCDOT also announced initiatives to increase visibility and safety in work zones including improved lighting for vehicles and equipment, and reflective vests and signs for employees. The agency also plans to highlight work zone safety messaging in SC DMV offices as well as online. The full report can be found here.
BRIDGES & PAVEMENTS: In April, the SCDOT Commission approved updated pavement and bridge performance targets and annual funding levels for inclusion in the TAMP 10-year plan. Under the revised plan, an average of $151 million will be spent on bridges annually.
$114.5 million in spending on structurally deficient bridges
$36.5 million would be spent on load restricted bridges
2019 Maintenance and Pavement Programs The 2019 State Maintenance Program will utilize $285.5 million(a 5% increase from last year) for operations. Of those revenues, roughly $134 million will be distributed among the seven engineering districts for routine maintenance. A total of 567 miles of repaving were approved for the 2019 Pavement Program. Additional details and links to specific routes can be found here.
Rural Roads Safety – Phase 2 Approved The second phase of the Rural Roads Safety Program was approved this year which includes improvements on 446 miles roads across the state. A full list of the phase 2 projects can be viewed here. Between Phases 1 and 2, there is a total of 909 miles in projects approved for development under the rural roads safety program.
Bonding for Interstate Improvements Given the uncertainty surrounding the lawsuits and the ability to bond any of the Act 275 and Act 40 revenues, the SCDOT developed an alternative funding plan in an effort to continue to move forward with the interstate program. The plan aims to maximize use of federal funds, cash on hand, and general obligation bonds. This allows for a plan to be in place instead of a “wait and see” mentality with the lawsuits.
2023 and Beyond: SCDOT Plans to Address Interstate Needs In October, the SC Department of Transportation Commission approved the inclusion of the Rural Interstate Freight Network Mobility Improvement Program to the TAMP which will specifically target rural sections of the interstate system for capacity improvements.
SCDOT plans to allocate $110 million to the program once the fuel tax credit included in Act 40 sunsets in 2023. The top five rural interstate freight segments identified for inclusion in the program include segments of I-95, 1-26, 1-77, and I-85. Details can be found here.
Public Expresses Support for Interstate Capacity The SCDOT received 224 public comments on the Rural Interstate Freight Network Mobility Improvement Program. Of those, 95% were in favor of the improvements. In addition, 86% of those comments specifically mentioned I-95.
Beaufort Approves Penny Sales Tax In November, Beaufort County voters approved (56.8%) a one-percent sales tax to pay for transportation infrastructure projects. County officials say the referendum will raise $120 million, with about two-thirds of the revenue going toward replacing or retrofitting the bridges to Hilton Head Island. Another $30 million would go toward the Lady’s Island corridor road improvement plan and $10 million would fund road and sidewalk improvements throughout the county. Learn more about the Beaufort Penny here.
Revival of the Mark Clark Expressway The State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) Board held a special meeting in October where board members voted 5-2 to rescind their June 2018 vote to terminate participation in the project and to amend the intergovernmental agreement (IGA), bringing new life to 526/Mark Clark Expressway.
The proposed changes include additional revenue from the county. Charleston County has agreed to increase their portion from $117 million to $305 million. The Bank has committed to $420 million (capped amount) with the county covering any excess costs.
To date, parties continue to work on the details of the agreement and it is expected that an agreement will be reached by mid-January 2019.
Horry County Council Approves I-73 Funding Horry County Council took another step toward building I-73 by passing a resolution in November to legally enter into an agreement with the SCDOT. Under the agreement, Horry County will start sending up to $25 million annually from the county’s hospitality fee to a trust account at the state treasurer's office.
SCDOT will use those funds for right-of-way acquisition, design and engineering, permitting, improvements to Highway 22, and construction. However, they must send work plans to the Council for approval before any dollars are expended. SCDOT will submit an annual work plan to the county by March 31 on their proposed activities for the coming year. Council will have to approve it by June 30.
The Horry County section of I-73 is expected to cost roughly $300 million to complete. The entire road, which will run from Horry into North Carolina, is expected to cost over $1 billion to complete. Council members believe that their actions show that they are serious and committed to getting the project done.
States to Watch in 2019
Our friends at ARTBA have highlighted “10 States to watch in 2019” and three of those states are in the Southeast.
Alabama Senator Del Marsh (R- District 12) recently stated that the legislature would likely consider increasing the state gas tax during the 2019 legislative session. The Association of County Commissions of Alabama reported July 20 that a new gas tax proposal is in development for the 2019 legislative session.
Kentucky has a backlog of more than $1 billion in road paving projects, plus at least 1,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, but the fund the state uses to pay for those projects has not increased since 2014. State lawmakers on Apr. 14, 2018, warned that the state will need to provide new transportation revenue in the next two years to preserve federal funding. Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has called on lawmakers to find a solution for the state’s transportation funding shortfall in the 2019 legislative cycle, including raising the state gas tax and fees on fuel-efficient vehicles.
Arkansas state Senator Breanne Davis (R-Russellville) requested on Sept. 20 that incoming Senate President Jim Hendren (R- Gravette) assist stakeholders and lawmakers with creating a transportation funding proposal ready for introduction when the legislature convenes in January.
And while it was not listed in the top 10, Louisiana will be one to watch over the next couple of years...
Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session is a short one, convening in April and adjourning in June, leaving little time to pass sizable measures. However, the state’s growing $13.1 billion backlog of transportation maintenance is putting pressure on lawmakers to address funding in the next few years. Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson warned in a radio interview earlier this year that the state is in jeopardy of losing federal transportation funds because it does not have the revenue to meet its match requirement. Campaigns both for and against a state gas tax increase have already begun.