SC to receive more than $6B from infrastructure bill

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Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:03 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than $6 billion will head to South Carolina over a five-year period as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the House late last week, according to the White House.

The bill is just awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature to become law and for funding to start being dispersed across the country.

The White House said Biden may not sign the bill until next week, when members of Congress will return to Washington following a weeklong recess.

“It’s urgent, but we also want to make sure that the people who spent the last couple of weeks, last couple of months just all in, delivering on this, on this promise, are here for the signing as well,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing Monday.

The money will be split into several different categories, with the bulk of it — nearly $4.9 billion in South Carolina — going toward road and bridge repairs.

According to the White House, South Carolina has more than 1,700 bridges in poor condition and nearly 7,300 highway miles in a similar state.

The state Department of Transportation said it will likely use this money not toward new projects, but toward projects it identified in 2013 as part of a larger study of South Carolina’s transportation system through 2040.

“Having a lot of money at one time without a plan is not a great plan, so having the vision that we did to lay out that plan and now being able to execute it is really what it’s all about for us, and again, like I said, it’s not changing our priorities. It’s just looking at possibly accelerating,” SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said.

According to the White House, the rest of South Carolina’s money will be split up as follows: $366 million for public transportation; $510 million to clean up water infrastructure, like pipes, and improve water quality; $161 million for improvements in the state’s airports; $70 million to expand electric vehicle charging stations; $15 million to protect against wildfires; $18.3 million to protect against cyberattacks; and at least $100 million to connect more South Carolinians with high-speed internet.

The Office of Regulatory Staff, which is overseeing the state’s broadband expansion money through its South Carolina Broadband Office, said its priority will be connecting homes that do not have any internet access and then using leftover funds to potentially speed up service for households with especially slow connections.

“When people are calling us, they’ve already done their due diligence. They’ve tried to get service on their own. They’re calling us when they have not found anything. But the other call we get is somebody who does have some service but just not enough to meet their needs,” ORS Executive Director Nanette Edwards said.

A July report found nearly 190,000 households in South Carolina are either unserved or underserved as it relates to broadband, though ORS said that number could rise based on the state’s new census data, and it estimated it will cost about $610 million in private and public investments to connect every South Carolinian with high-speed internet.

Earlier this year, the state spent $50 million in funding from the CARES Act toward this goal, and Edwards said the ORS hopes the state will allocate more through its American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“It’ll be completely transformational and likely last, you know, put the state on a whole different glidepath for the next 50 to 100 years, so it’s really a big time,” South Carolina Broadband Office Director Jim Stritzinger said.

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