SCDOT rolls out the blueprints for spending extra gas tax dollars

SCDOT rolls out the blueprints for spending extra gas tax dollars

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina drivers can expect to see more orange cones and road construction signs, after the higher gas tax takes effect on July 1.

On Thursday, SCDOT rolled out plans to fix roads using that extra money. But some things on at least one rural road in Lexington County top neighbors' wishlist for other fixes.

"The worst traffic is coming back this way," Lewis Shealy gestures toward one direction of Highway 302 from his restaurant, Shealy's PDQ Too. "They
actually made a turning lane."

Lewis Shealy says he's seen plenty of traffic back-ups and close calls outside of his restaurant in Lexington County, despite some recent road changes that he doesn't consider improvements. There's an added turning lane, some shoulder work, and guardrails on the two-lane secondary route.

Changes like these are SCDOT's top priority when it comes to spending some of the new gas tax money in the future. Their goal is to add these adjustments to rural roads and secondary routes, to lessen the fatality count.

However, neighbors like Shealy would rather see roads like 302 widened to four lanes.

"I mean, they've done some of that on 302 here and I can't see where it's helped anything. You know, they've put a little skirt on the side of the road, little strips. I just don't see where that's going to help us," Shealy says.

Because the gas tax increase is gradual, at 2-cents-per-gallon each year for six years, SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall says fixes won't be immediate but will take some time over the years. The department wouldn't see the full $600 million until full implementation after 10 years.

"It will be slow, steady improvement going forward over the next several years," Hall says.

After the rural roads adjustments, Hall plans to double resurfacing efforts, widen interstates, and replace bridges. She proposed widening 140 miles of interstate, including I-20 in Lexington County, I-77 in Richland County, and I-26 in Newberry, Lexington, and Richland counties. There are 465 bridges to be replaced, including 25 in Richland, 10 in Lexington, seven in Charleston, and 11 in Horry County.

"I think the first year, we'll be kind of ahead of the curve and waiting on the revenues to make sure they accumulate and then be poised to push those contracts out the door as soon as possible," Hall says.

Shealy is pleased with the plans for resurfacing.

"It's just going to take a lot to get them back, you know," Shealy said.

The plans released on Thursday are just proposals at this point; Hall will present them to SCDOT commissioners for their approval to start the work next month. She hopes a plan can be in place before the new tax takes effect.

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