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Commission Approves SCDOT Plan to Address Interstate Needs
The SC Department of Transportation met on Thursday to approve the addition of mobility targets to the Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP).  In addition, they also 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.

Measuring Mobility
Mobility performance targets are based on two key factors:
  1. Performance of Interstate (Percentage of Interstate Segments with Reliable Travel Times*)
  2. Movement of Freight (Truck Travel Time Reliability Index*)
*These factors are based on data that is collected at an interval rate (15 minutes) during peak travel times across 1300 segments of the interstate system.

Baseline conditions (2016) and 10-year target figures are outlined below.  As you can see these additional investments will not come close to solving problems, but they will serve as an attempt to help ease the decline of mobility. 

A Focus on Freight
The  Rural Interstate Freight Network Mobility Improvement Plan will be in addition to the previously approved interstate widening projects planned for the urban areas of the state.  It will focus solely on rural sections of the interstate system with a focus on freight density and improving mobility. 

The SCDOT plans to allocate $110 million to the program once the fuel tax credit included in Act 40 sunsets in 2023. 

Focusing on the movement of freight allows for the SCDOT to improve reliability, productivity, and begin addressing capacity needs on our interstates in areas that they are needed most.  While interstates only make up 2% of the system, they carry 30% of the traffic and serve as main arteries of commerce in the state. 

Truck freight has grown across the country and will continue to grow in the coming years.  In South Carolina, truck freight tonnage is predicted to increase from $375 million to $600 million by 2040.  
A total of 18 freight corridors were identified for the program using Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) boundaries as the basis. 

The SCDOT also worked in conjunction with the SC Department of Commerce and the SC Ports Authority to better assess economic impacts and mobility of routes.  

Each segment was ranked using the following criteria:

  • Truck travel time reliability – 0 to 250 points
  • Freight tonnage – 0 to 200 points
  • Average Annual Daily Truck Traffic – 0 to 200 points
  • Potential for economic development – 0 to 100 points
  • Service to SC Ports – 0 to 100 points
  • Commercial truck crashes – 0 to 100 points
  • Connectivity to our existing widened sections – 0 or 50 points

Based on rankings, the top five rural interstate freight segments were identified:

It is estimated that these projects will take 10-15 years to complete.

In a press release following the meeting, Secretary Christy Hall and Commissioners Barnwell Fishburne and Robby Robbins expressed their support of the program.

“Trucking is the primary mode of freight travel in South Carolina and it’s projected to grow by more than 60% over the next two decades. To close the widening gap on I-26 between Columbia and Charleston is estimated to cost about $1.8 Billion in today’s dollars and to widen the first 33 miles of I-95 is estimated to cost $1.2 Billion. We must start today with identifying how to break these corridors into projects that can be advanced as funding becomes available,” said Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall.

Improving the I-95 and I-26 interstate corridors is absolutely critical to the continued economic growth of the state and it is long overdue.  I applaud the staff and Commission for recognizing that we needed to address the interstate needs in the rural areas of the state,“ said Commissioner Barnwell Fishburne (District 6).

“The Commission’s action today finally puts SCDOT in the right position to begin to tackle the widening of these two key interstate corridors.  We are seeing tremendous economic growth and we must widen our interstates in order to remain economically competitive as well as address the needs of our existing businesses and consumers,” said Commissioner Robby Robbins (District 1).
Senators Talk Tax Reform
The Senate Finance Taxation System Review and Reform Subcommittee held its first meeting on Wednesday.  The subcommittee was recently formed by Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) to review and propose ways to reform the state’s tax code.  The subcommittee is co-chaired by Senator Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester) and Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw).  Other members include Senator Glenn Reese (D-Spartanburg), Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), Senator John Scott (D-Richland), Senator Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster) and Senator Tom Corbin (R-Greenville).

Subcommittee Chairman Senator Sean Bennett who was the driving force behind the establishment of the committee, acknowledged the plethora of other tax study committees that have addressed this in the past, and noted there will be many challenges ahead of them due to the many constituencies affected.

Committee members weighed in on what they would like to see addressed including income tax, sales tax exemptions, local taxes and Act 388.  Everything is on the table and sales tax exemptions continue to be the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.

Senator Bennett noted that  said the current tax structure is broken and inefficient and changes are necessary to insure for a vibrant and growing economy.  Senator Tom Davis added that they could shift the burden to the proponents of the exemptions by sunsetting all of them and require interested parties to make their case for extending the exemptions moving forward.

Committee members were provided with the previous work of the TRAC Commission and the recent House Tax Study Committee.  They plan to have at least one meeting before the end of the year in order to receive testimony on the current tax structure and a historical review.  They certainly have their work cut out for them as they dive into this complex issue.  Stay tuned…
House Subcommittee Looks to Address CDL-Driver Shortage
The House Education & Public Works Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jay West (R-Anderson) met this week to hear from trade associations, business owners, state agency representatives, and educators regarding the CDL-driver shortage in South Carolina.

Among the issues that arose during the meeting were the barriers to employment which included age restrictions, inability to acquire the necessary experience, and the need for legal reforms to reduce liability for employers of CDL drivers.  Subcommittee members were also encouraged to look to ways to promote skilled workforce careers and provide resources to technical colleges to promote CDL programs.

The subcommittee will meet again in the future and many are hopeful that this will prompt the legislature to look to address workforce development in the coming session.  Stay tuned...

Subcommittee members also include Representatives Lin Bennett (R-Charleston), William Cogswell (R-Charleston),  Ronnie Young (R-Aiken), and Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg).
THANK YOU to all of our generous sponsors for your support of the 2018 SCFOR Annual Meeting.
We look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday, October 23. 
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