Fixing all of South Carolina's crumbling roads would be enormously expensive. But, as a recent report by the Road Information Program indicates, the state already is paying a high price for not fixing them.
The report was commissioned by the S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads, a coalition of chambers of commerce and business and government leaders. The report attempted to put an economic price tag on the carnage inflicted by the state's dangerous roads.
The analysis concluded that our dangerous roads cost us $3.7 billion a year. That's $863 for every South Carolinian.
The figure includes medical costs, lost economic and household productivity, psychological or emotional trauma, property damage and travel delays.
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South Carolina's traffic fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled was 52 percent higher than the national average in 2005. But rural roads are even more dangerous, ranking worst in the nation at 4.61 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles.
Experts estimate that bringing non-interstate roadways and bridges up to safety standards would cost the state $1.9 billion a year for the next two decades. Currently, the Department of Transportation is spending $16 million a year on improving secondary roads, and with the prospect of cuts in state spending for the coming year, finding more money for roads will be difficult.
The S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads is backing three road funding bills. One would set up a transportation maintenance fund, dedicating 2 percent of the state's general revenue from the latest completed fiscal year. Two others would direct taxes from sales of vehicles into the state highway fund. One of those two also would match those funds with federal funds.
The state needs to find money for road improvements somewhere. As the survey reveals, not spending money to fix state roads is false economy. The millions of dollars South Carolinians pay for damage to their cars, medical costs and other problems caused by bad roads could be better spent improving roads.
Bad roads also are a deterrent to businesses considering a move to South Carolina. What business wants to invest in a state where the roads are death traps?
Finally, we need to improve our roads to save lives. According to the survey, someone dies on a South Carolina road about every eight hours.
The death toll is too high. It's not that we can't afford to fix the roads; it's that we can't afford not to.
There is a considerable cost associated with not fixing state's crumbling roads.