526 Extension Will Continue to Move Forward The Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) met Tuesday and chose to add the 526/Mark Clark extension project to the agenda. This move didn't come as much of a surprise, given the subcommittee promised to bring the project back before the full JBRC at last month's meeting, and Ron Brinson also predicted 526 would be a topic of interest at the meeting in a piece he wrote for the Post and Courier earlier this week.
Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee) who chaired the special subcommittee tasked with reviewing the project, made a motion for the JBRC to approve the current funding schedule ($12 million from the STIB and the $12 million from the County) to allow preliminary work to continue. He added that the JBRC would then review the updated cost estimate for the project from SCDOT when it came time for certification of federal approval.
Senator Alexander said that the subcommittee felt that this was the best way to allow the project to continue to move forward. The JBRC members agreed and approved the motion.
Both lowcountry legislators that sit on the JBRC expressed their appreciation for allowing the project to continue moving forward.
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) thanked the subcommittee and the JBRC for the "attention and diligence" that they have given to the project and said that he was "grateful and excited" that it was moving forward.
Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley) echoed Stavrinakis' remarks, specifically noting that the project would help alleviate the excessive commute times drivers experience on a daily basis.
JBRC Members Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence)
Senator Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee)
Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee)*
Senator Glenn Reese (D-Spartanburg)
Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley)*
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter)
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg)
Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry)
Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York)*
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston)* *Denotes 526 Subcommittee Member
Lawsuit Filed Against 526 The Coastal Conservation League filed a lawsuit Monday to challenge the legality of Charleston County’s use of sales tax money on the I-526 extension. “It’s simple. Voters in Charleston County were asked to approve funding for specific projects. I-526 wasn’t one of them,” Conservation League Executive Director Laura Cantral said in a statement on the lawsuit. “We’re stepping in to hold elected officials accountable and protect taxpayers. Charleston County should not be allowed to disenfranchise its own voters.”
Charleston County Council Chair Elliott Summey told the Post and Courier he wasn’t surprised by the lawsuit, and he isn’t worried about it either. “It’s a publicity stunt for them (the Coastal Conservation League) to raise money,” Summey said. “I have to get my money from the State Infrastructure Bank. They get theirs from rich donors.” Click here to read the Post and Courier’s coverage of the lawsuit.
The State offered coverage of the lawsuit and how the fate of the project was impacting the state as a whole, specifically noting that the project is tying up $420 million in State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) money. Senator Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) said the money has gone unused for too long. He said the $420 million should be used to widen interstates that are too narrow and prone to traffic congestion.
“I think there is tremendous need throughout the state of South Carolina, besides this project, including areas in the Midlands,’’ Setzler said. “We ought to take that money in the Infrastructure Bank and you ought to widen every interstate in this state. The road between Columbia and Charleston, I-26, for instance, gets backed up. Interstates are the lifeblood of the economy of South Carolina.’’ Read The State’s coverage here.
SCDOT Highlights Horry County Projects
Take a look at the completed projects, current projects, and future projects in Horry County. Seeing is believing! #FixingSCRoads
FHWA Highlights Intersection Improvements in South Carolina The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) highlighted how the SCDOT used the systemic approach for stop-controlled intersections to complete 80 projects for the price of one. The short video below shows how the agency began working in 2009 on low-cost traffic safety improvements to make intersections safer. Results over a ten year period yielded a 10% decrease in fatal/injury crashes and an 8:1 cost-benefit ratio.
Nationally, crashes that occur at or near intersections are responsible for 25% of all traffic-related fatalities and 50% of all injuries.
SCDOT Announces Three Projects Identified for FY 2019 Transportation Alternatives Program The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is providing public notification of three (3) projects identified for possible inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation Alternatives Program. The Transportation Alternatives Program, formerly known as the Transportation Enhancement Program, is a federally funded program that is administered by SCDOT and provides local governments an opportunity to pursue non-traditional transportation-related activities such as pedestrian facilities, bicycle facilities, and streetscaping. The three projects for consideration are:
Town of Peak: Downtown Pedestrian Improvements
Town of Ridgeway: SC 34 Sidewalk
Greenwood County School District 52: Cambridge Street Sidewalk
America's Interstate Highway System: Aging, Overloaded And In Need Of Repairs NPR focused on America's interstate highway system this week, interviewing Brian Pallasch, director of government relations at the American Society of Civil Engineers. The interview focuses on the impacts dated interstates have on the economy and the motoring public. Pallasch says highway problems will continue to plague drivers if revamping interstates falls down the priority list. He highlights the difficulties associated with completing projects, including delays related to utility relocation, and discusses the need for federal funding mechanisms to ensure drivers of alternative vehicles pay their fair share.
State Legislatures Continue to Look to Fuel Taxes for Road Funding Many states continue to look at raising and reforming fuel taxes to help fund a growing list of infrastructure needs. Since 2013, 31 states have increased their fuel taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements.
The latest state to join these ranks? Illinois. On June 2, the Illinois legislature passed a 19 cent fuel tax (indexed to inflation) along with increased vehicle registration fees to pay for infrastructure improvements. Once the bill is signed into law, they will officially be the 4th state to increase their gas tax in 2019, following Alabama, Arkansas, and Ohio.
2019 Fuel Tax Laws
Plan included a 10 cents-per-gallon fuel tax increase, indexed to the National Highway Construction Cost, and new annual registration fees of $200 for electric motor vehicles and $100 for hybrid motor vehicles.
Plan included a 3 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, 6 cents-per-gallon diesel tax increase, and additional levy based on the average wholesale price of fuel. An annual registration fee of $200 for electric motor vehicles, $100 for hybrid motor vehicles, and transfers $35 million annually from casino revenues to the state’s transportation fund. Separate legislation also passed that would put a referendum to place a half-cent sales tax increase renewal on the 2020 ballot.
Increases the fuel tax by 19 cents per gallon, indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. The bill also increases vehicle registration fees by $50 and increases electric vehicle fees to $248 per year.
Increased the state gas tax by 10.5 cents-per-gallon and the diesel tax by 19 cents-per-gallon, and implements annual registration fees of $200 for electric motor vehicles and $100 for plug-in hybrid motor vehicles.