SC Legislative Update
By Ben Homeyer
On Thursday, November 2, we spent the day at the SCFOR Annual Meeting in Columbia. The meeting brings together SCDOT leadership, SC lawmakers and a multitude of stakeholders in all things related to the condition, construction, reliability, and efficiency of our states transportation system.
SCDOT Commissioner Christy Hall reported that South Carolina is the 3rd fastest growing state in the nation with 5.2 million residents and was just recently named the #1 state in available real estate according to Area Development’s 2023 Top States for Doing Business report. SC is also well positioned to be the preferred port on the east coast with the deepest channel and largest ships. Economic development continues to boom in SC. The emphasis at SCDOT continues to remain building and repairing our state’s roads and bridges to meet the tremendous boom in population and development. The 10 Year Plan that SCDOT is focused on is divided into Rural Road Safety, Paving, Bridges, and Interstates. Rural Road Safety’s new target is 1,250 miles up from the 965, Paving is to improve main routes throughout the state, Bridges’ new target is 500 with 350 already in the works and finally Interstates at 215 miles targeted with 101 miles underway. That’s the good news.
The not so good news is that South Carolina has a looming bridge crisis. 2,751 bridges are over 60 years old, which equates to 32% of SCDOT’s inventory. With that, 60 bridges are currently under emergency closure, up from 20 bridges only a few years ago. The four major projects in their windshield are Carolina Crossroads, SCOUT Motors interchange, 1-26 widening and 1-95 widening. The SCOUT project will have to be delivered and completed faster than any other project in SCDOT history and in a climate where project costs have dramatically increased by 25-50% across the contracting spectrum. But it will be done. For 2024, SCDOT is requesting $200 million for the critically needed bridge fund. $100 million will go to secondary and $100 million for primary and interstate.
Senators Thomas McElveen (D-Sumter), Ross Turner (R-Greenville), Tom Young (R-Aiken) and Representatives Gary Brewer (R-Charleston), Cody Mitchell (R-Darlington), Russell Ott (D-Calhoun) and Jay West (R-Anderson) all served on legislative panels. Across the board the common focus was economic development, infrastructure, workforce development and energy. All realized that business and population in SC is booming. Stressed the importance of meeting the energy demand that will come from the expansion/growth of EV’s, commerce, development, and a rapidly growing population. A note that they all stressed is that 2024 will be an election year for every seat in the senate and house. The importance of voting and supporting candidates that are business friendly is paramount for our state to continue to not only grow but thrive. They also reminded those in attendance that in the last few years we have seen a budget surplus that continues to surpass the year before, but that will not always be the case and this year will not be as robust as last year.