COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the state of South Carolina's roads are discussed statewide, Richland County transportation officials will update the community on infrastructure projects underway funded by the Penny Tax.
There are two components of the Richland Penny Program: funding for the Comet bus system and road projects. Monday night county officials will update the community on the progress of both plans.
According to county transportation officials, the penny tax has funded $19 million toward the Comet, which they say has allowed the bus system to double its hours. Transportation officials say it's also contributed to a 60% increase in use of the Comet.
County officials say they have paved more than seven of 236 miles of dirt roads throughout the county. They've also finalized resurfacing contracts for an additional 11 miles be done this spring.
While county transportation officials say they still get some resistance to the penny program, they argue there's a reason counties chose to rely on these types of infrastructure programs.
"Funding for transportation is a problem. South Carolina hasn't raised their fuel-user fee since 1987. You can't build a road for what you built it in 1987," said Richland County Transportation Director Rob Perry. "That's why a lot of counties in the state have gone to these transportation programs. So the counties are trying to look at the issues they have from a transportation issue and transportation problem and tackle them on their own."
According to the Richland County Transportation Department, 2015 is going to be a big year for projects. Officials say there will be 12 major projects under construction this year and 15 that will begin development.
Greene Street will be the first major project beginning in 2015. Transportation officials say they will increase bikeways and pedestrian facilities and adding a giant foundation square in front of Colonial Life Arena, which will ultimately be another place to hold events.
Another project is the widening of Hard Scrabble Road, which starts in October. Plans include reconstruction of six intersections, two greenway projects, resurfacing, dirt road paving, and work on county bikeways and sidewalks.
""I would say the five year county transportation improvement program is the thing that I'm the most proud of," Perry said. "To me you have to show the citizens what you're going to do and when and this shows five years' worth of what we have planned for the citizens. It's essentially our playbook over the next five years of which projects we're going to work on and which projects we're going to try and get ready for construction."
The State of the Penny Address is Monday, January 26, at 6:30 p.m. at Lower Richland High School in the auditorium. The community is encouraged to attend. For a list of projects included in the Penny Tax, click here.