South Carolina Faces $22 Billion Shortfall In Transportation Funds

By Christina Fisher | September 28, 2010

South Carolina faces a shortfall of nearly $22 billion over the next 10 years in needed transportation funding to relieve congestion, improve road and bridge conditions and implement needed safety enhancements, according to a new report recently released by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C.

The report, "Future Mobility in South Carolina: Meeting the State's Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility," examines transportation funding, road and bridge conditions, traffic congestion, roadway safety, and economic development in South Carolina. According to the TRIP report, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) estimates that from 2007 to 2016, $28.2 billion is needed to relieve congestion, improve road conditions, make needed bridge repairs and implement desirable safety enhancements. However, SCDOT estimates that only $6.3 billion will be available during this time, leaving a shortfall of approximately $21.9 billion for needed improvements to the state's transportation system. This shortfall is exacerbated by sharply increasing highway construction costs.

The TRIP report found that the state's roads and bridges are increasingly congested due to rising population and additional vehicle travel levels in recent years. In 2006 (the latest year for which data is available), 39 percent of South Carolina's major roadways were congested. From 1990 to 2006, vehicle travel on South Carolina's roads increased at a rate more than 10 times faster than additional highway capacity was added.

According to the TRIP report, South Carolina's traffic fatality rate is the sixth highest in the nation, and the state has a rural traffic fatality rate that is more than four times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state. Improving safety features on South Carolina's roads and highways would likely result in a decrease in traffic fatalities in the state.

The report also found that nearly a quarter of the state's bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. Fourteen percent of South Carolina's bridges were structurally deficient in 2007 and an additional 9 percent were functionally obsolete. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length and are maintained by state, local and federal agencies.

More than one quarter — 26 percent — of South Carolina's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. The TRIP report calculates that driving on roads in need of repair costs the average South Carolina motorist approximately $265 per year — $791 million statewide — in additional vehicle operating costs. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

Additional findings from the TRIP report:

  • South Carolina's population increased more than 24 percent since 1990 and is expected to grow an additional 19 percent by 2030. Vehicle travel in South Carolina increased by 46 percent from 1990 to 2006 — jumping from 34.4 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to 50.2 billion VMT.
  • Between 2002 and 2006, 5,197 people were killed in traffic accidents in South Carolina, an average of 1,039 fatalities per year. The state's traffic fatality rate of 2.07 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2006 (the latest year for which data is available) was 44 percent higher than the national average of 1.41.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2006 on South Carolina's non-Interstate rural roads was 4.10 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is more than four times higher than the traffic fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state (1.00).
  • In 2006 (the latest year for which data is available), 6 percent of South Carolina's roads were rated in poor condition and 20 percent were rated in mediocre condition.