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Senate Finance Subcommittee Talks Transportation
This week, Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall appeared before the Senate Finance Transportation & Regulatory Budget Subcommittee chaired by Senator John Matthews (D-Orangeburg) to discuss budget proviso requests  for the FY19/20 budget.  Hall expressed her appreciation for the legislature passing Act 40 and for their confidence in the agency as they continue to ramp up the road and bridge program across the state.

Acting Deputy Secretary for Finance & Administration, Kace Smith, gave a quick overview of the SCDOT’s $2.4 billion budget and noted that roughly 87% of expenditures go towards maintenance/preservation and capacity improvements.

SCDOT noted that they are looking at the removal of two provisos. (As we have previously reported, the SCDOT is requesting the removal of a proviso dealing with a bridge project that has been completed and the proviso added last year that deals with utility relocation.) The agency is also requesting one new proviso to explicitly clarify that the CTCs receive their additional funding as prescribed in Act 40.

Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) inquired on the use of CTC funding, citing that many legislators had concerns about CTCs sitting on the funds and not spending the money.  Secretary Hall noted that many of the CTCs were concerned about the lawsuits; however, she encouraged them to move forward just as the agency did when it came to planning and carrying out projects.

Senator Matthews expressed concerns with utility relocations, and Senator Grooms reminded the subcommittee that utility relocation legislation passed the Senate last year and didn’t make it through the House.  He added that legislation had been introduced in the Senate and they will continue to work on the issue again this year. Stay tuned...

2019 Budget Schedule
Full Ways & Means Committee Budget Deliberations are expected to be the week of February 18 -21.
Debate on the House Floor is expected to be the week of March 11 - 14. 
Once the budget bill passes the House, the full Senate Finance Committee will begin deliberating the bill (mid-March). 

SCFOR Talks Progress and Challenges During Summerville 'Power Hour'
SCFOR Executive Director Jennifer Patterson and SCDOT Commission Chairman Robby Robbins had the opportunity to talk roads, progress, and challenges in Summerville on Wednesday morning. The meeting was part of the Summerville Chamber of Commerce's monthly power hour series, and January was dedicated to roads. The meeting had a great turnout, and the crowd had some excellent questions.  A big thank you to the Summerville Chamber of Commerce for including SCFOR on the agenda.  It was a great opportunity to keep the public engaged and educated on this very important issue! 

We are making progress, but our job is far from over! 

Pictured L-R: Summerville Chamber Meeting Sponsor Tony Pope, State Farm; Jennifer Patterson, SCFOR; Robby Robbins, SCDOT Commission.

DUI-E Moves to Full Committee
Members of the Education & Public Works Transportation Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville) heard nearly three hours of testimony in support of texting legislation, H.3355.  The testimony came from representatives from state agencies, business and trade organizations, as well as families of victims involved in distracted driving accidents.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) and it aims to strengthen distracted driving laws in South Carolina by increasing penalties for drivers who use their phones behind the wheel.  Under the plan, drivers would be fined $200 for using a cellphone or other electronic device in their hands. Drivers could talk on the phone with a hands-free device or use the GPS app on their phone or other electronic devices as long as they entered their destination before driving.

At least 16 states have banned drivers from holding cell phones, including Georgia.  Rep. John Carson (R-GA) sponsored Georgia’s ban on holding cell phones last year and testified before the subcommittee. According to Carson, the culture of driving had drastically changed in Georgia since passage.  He also noted that thirteen of the states that have similar bans reported at least a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities after the ban was passed.

State Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer said it is likely the small penalties and loopholes in the state's texting law are part of a 10 percent increase in auto insurance premiums in recent years.

"We're not very good drivers in our state," Farmer said. "We need to learn to put the phone down."

The bill now heads to the full Education & Public Works Committee.

Florence Representative and Widow Team up for "Move Over" Legislation
Rep. Jay Jordan (R- Florence) is working with Kady Coffey (who lost her husband while he was responding to a wreck on the Great Pee Dee River Bridge on I-95 back in 2012) to take South Carolina’s “Move Over” law a few steps further.

"This is a piece of legislation we've talked a lot over the last couple of years in South Carolina about making our roads safer," said Jordan. "A lot of that is improving the conditions of our roads, but this is another side of that coin."

Jordan pre-filed legislation this year(H.3388) that would do the following:

1. Make April of each year "Move Over Awareness Month" in South Carolina.
2. Require the Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety host a variety of programs across the state that emphasize the importance of moving over when able. 
3. Provide the opportunity for tow truck drivers to take traffic incident management training free of charge.
4. Force the Department of Motor Vehicles to print information in its driver's manuals relating to the "Move Over Law".

The full story by WBTW can be found here. (This bill is not limited to tow truck drivers and first responders, it also applies to work zones!)
Wando Bridge Update
On January 25, the SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering, Leland Colvin, announced a plan to reinforce the I-526 bridge spanning the Wando River throughout the next 15 months. These efforts come seven months after a snapped cable was discovered on the westbound span and forced an emergency shutdown in May 2018.

In addition to replacing the broken cable and adding two supplementary cables to the westbound bridge, SCDOT added a monitoring system that will alert officials in the event of another snapped cable.  This consists of both microphones as well as cameras in both the main spans of the eastbound and westbound bridge. These provide real-time monitoring for SCDOT,” explained Colvin. “If an entire cable were to snap, we would pick that up through the microphones, and that would send out a text to our structural engineers both here in Charleston, as well as Columbia. We’ve got protocols in place if something like that were to happen.”

SCDOT also performs daily walkthroughs of the bridge’s interior to inspect cables for potential deterioration. Additionally, they plan to replace the joints on the eastbound and westbound bridges and will apply a corrosion inhibitor to the cable anchor covers.

“We anticipate starting this work this spring, go through spring of 2020 before we get all these items completed,” said Colvin. “Of course, with any construction project, we will have some nighttime lane closures that will have very minimal impact on traffic.” He added that there would be two weekends in the fall that will require a “traffic shift,” but no dates have been set.

South Carolina’s roads and bridges will continue to be one of the top issues facing the state for many years to come. As the new state revenues are phased in, SCFOR understands the importance of publicly promoting both progress and patience; while continuing to urge policymakers at all levels of government to be proactive about infrastructure needs and investments. 
Questions regarding your 2019 SCFOR membership?
Please contact Jennifer Patterson via email or by phone at (803)417-6256.
2018 - 2019 Newsletter Archive
Copyright © 2019 South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, All rights reserved.

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