DOT unveils first projects to be funded by infrastructure improv - - Columbia, South Carolina |

DOT unveils first projects to be funded by infrastructure improvements

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South Carolina has some of the deadliest highways and roads in the nation, according to Popular Mechanics. But relief seemed in sight earlier this year when Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill allocating $1 billion over the next 10 years to go to road and highway improvement.

On Wednesday, the first projects to be funded under that bill were approved.

The good news is that South Carolina roads and highways are getting some of the funding they need. Lawmakers approved six main interstate widening and improvement projects totaling more than $500 million The bad news is if you don't live in the Midlands or Upstate, you may not see much improvement.

That's because the projects approved were focused on Interstate 85 in the upstate, Interstate 20 in Lexington County and Interstate 77 in Richland County. The projects were chosen based on seven specific criteria.

"Volume and capacity, that's 30 percent for the interstate, that's the weighting it has," said Ron Patton from the state Transportation Department. "Truck volume is 10 percent, safety is 20 percent, and pavement quality."

But that did little to mitigate the anger some lawmakers felt over the stretch Interstate 26 from Charleston to Columbia being left out of the improvement plan.

"The section of 26 in Berkeley County ranks number 25 on the list," said Patton. "It's all about money, how much money we have."

"I can assure you that while we may not have the industry they have along I-85 and in some other parts of this state, the people who drive that road are extremely concerned," said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter.

"I'm sure you're aware we've had several more deaths since the last time we had this same conversation. I'm sure their families don't care what the list says," said Rep. Chip Limehouse.

Even with $1 billion allocated to roads and highways over the next decade, many say it won't be enough until we raise the motor fuel user fee, which hasn't  been increased since 1987.

"What's great about the gas tax is that more than 30 percent of it is paid by out-of-state travelers," said Bill Ross with the Alliance to Fix Our Roads.

Malfunction Junction at the I-20 and I-26 interchange was on the list to receive a facelift over the next few years. The cost is estimated to be $10 million for engineering costs.

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