The condition of our state’s roads is in serious decline. However, there is debate as to why. Our roads are an asset, and as with most assets their condition can be measured by numbers. What follows are figures that must be considered to make roads and bridges as safe and smooth as they were a generation ago.
SC taxes and fees
No. 4: SC’s rank among 50 states in miles of state maintained roads
41,460: The number of those miles
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No. 3: SC’s rank among states in lowest fuel tax
No. 1: Recent ranking of Rock Hill for lowest fuel prices in the USA
1987: The most recent year the state’s fuel tax was increased
16.75 cents: SC’s fuel tax per gallon
6 cents: SC fuel tax in 1937 when paving began on many of what were then farm-to-market roads
7.8 cents: Purchasing power of the tax today vs. 1987
33 cents: What the per gallon tax would be today if it tracked the CPI in 1987
36.5 cents: NC’s fuel tax
$560 million: Total of state generated SCDOT revenue for this fiscal year
$451 million: Portion of that derived from taxes on fuel
$78.5 million: Amount SC sends to counties in C funds to be used mainly for maintaining county roads
$24 million: Portion of tax (4 percent) that goes to other state agencies, not including the State Infrastructure Bank. $19 million of these funds are used to inspect fuel pumps and tanks.
Road usage and MPG
62 percent: Increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled in SC since 1987
14: MPG average for new cars in 1975
33: MPG average for new cars today
54: MPG average mandated for 2025
61 percent: Interstate road miles rated in good condition
10 percent: NFA (secondary, nonfederal aid eligible) road miles rated in good condition
2,082: Miles of NFA roads in good condition
10,410: Miles of NFA roads in poor condition
33 percent: NFA road miles in poor condition in 2008
50 percent: NFA road miles in poor condition in 2013
$3 billion: Estimated cost at $300,000 per lane mile to reconstruct NFA roads in poor condition
$105 million: Amount devoted to that each year
$88 million: Projected cost to expand 4.4 miles of I-26 from U.S. 52 to I-526
2X+: The amount the legislature increased funding for NFA roads last year through
10X: Cost of reconstructing a road vs. preserving it
$78.5 billion: The amount the SCDOT estimates SC will need by 2040 to bring all roads and bridges into good condition
$27.6 billion: Amount SC expects to collect during that time period
$42.8 billion: The shortfall
$1.6 billion: SCDOT’s total budget for this year
$1.47 billion: The shortfall per year averaged through 2040
$120 million: Average annual growth in SC’s General Fund budget over last
8 percent: Percentage of shortfall that could be covered by devoting the entire figure above to it each year
No. 1: SC’s rank in tire manufacturing.
Our state faces dual challenges regarding roads. Roads in urban areas are clogged and in need of expansion to increase traffic flow. Traffic isn’t a problem in rural counties, but residents there must traverse unsafe secondary roads that have fallen into disrepair. The longer action to generate additional funding is delayed the more each challenge we face will cost.
One must also consider that inflation has reduced the purchasing power of SC’s fuel tax by more than 50 percent since it was last increased in 1987. Increasing average MPG for vehicles has decreased it by another 25 percent. The trends are irreversible. These facts mean SC must increase funding for our roads if only to stave off further decline. From where should it come? Some say an increased fuel tax. Others say from growth in the state’s General Fund. Both are correct.
The figures reveal the pothole we are in to be so deep it will be decades before we bring all our roads up to good condition. One thing we can do right away, though, is reverse the trend. The numbers don’t lie. The time for comprehensive action toward smoother, safer roads is now.
Greg Gregory represents SC Senate District 16 for Lancaster and York counties.