Costs of Poor Urban Roads Adding Up for South Carolinians 

Cost of Driving on bad roads

By Bill Ross

Citizens and public infrastructure across South Carolina have suffered unprecedented damages from the historic storm two weeks ago. Neglected maintenance and erosion have combined to create a real crisis.

Before the historic floods our infrastructure system was already in a state of disrepair. According to the most recent Multimodal Transportation Plan – the SCDOT estimated that it needed $70.5 billion through 2040 to maintain and improve the state’s transportation system – however, it will have only $27.6 billion in revenues to meet that need. That is nearly a $43 billion shortfall in funds needed for highway, bridge and transit systems.

To make matters worse, Congress has the power to fund these shortfalls but is sitting on their hands, watching the situation grow worse.

A new analysis from two national reports sheds light on a comprehensive picture of the impact of deteriorating urban pavement has on S.C. drivers – the Trip “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother” report – released in July by Trip, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AAA, and the INRIX / Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard.

Both reports found that drivers in our state’s major urban areas are significantly impacted – in vehicle operating costs and congestion delays – by South Carolina’s deteriorating urban roads. Additionally, the INRIX / TTI report found that urban areas of all sizes are experiencing challenges similar to those seen in the early 2000s – increases in population and jobs and therefore increases in congestion.

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost South Carolina motorists a total of $3 billion statewide annually due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. This enormous figure breaks down to between $1,100 and more than $1,400 per driver in our state’s major urban areas every single year.

While the dramatic increase in South Carolina’s population in recent years – an astounding 39 percent since 1990 – has been good for our economy, the lack of investment in our state’s transportation needs is having the opposite effect.

The U.S. Senate has passed a six-year transportation bill to fund the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit systems, which the U.S. House of Reps has not acted on a long-term solution.

Our U.S. House members have an opportunity to make a real difference for the people of South Carolina by simply passing a long-term bill.

Bill Ross is the Executive Director of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads

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Statement Regarding SCDOT Flood Response

SCDOT Flood Relief

Heavy rains bring rash of gaping sinkholes to S.C., Lowcountry roads – Post and Courier

October 12, 2015

Trucking Related Business & Industry Groups Support Efforts of SCDOT

An alliance of trucking-intensive business and industry organizations has issued this statement relative to the SCDOT and its response to the floods disaster the state has experienced over the last week:

“I speak in this instance for the many and varied organizations and trade associations whose constituencies use and depend on our highway system for commercial trucking operations to keep commerce and critical goods and services on the move in South Carolina,” said Rick Todd, President & CEO of the South Carolina Trucking Association.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation in particular, working hand-in-hand with their sister agencies, other governmental and the private sector entities, has done an outstanding job of managing this unprecedented crisis.

Early on they initiated and maintained regular, comprehensive alerts, and public safety and road/bridge closure notices, which constantly improved in usefulness and content.

The legislature has assigned the SC DOT with responsibility for over 40,000 miles of roads and bridges in this state. That is a disproportionately large responsibility, but one they have managed very well, all things considered.

We thank every level of the DOT’s agency for their tireless, round the clock work to protect our citizens and our highway system to provide critically-important, real-time information to those who have to use the roads.

We pledge our continuing support going forward.

AAA Carolinas

Carolinas AGC

Carolinas Ready Mix Concrete Association

Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce

Home Builders Association of SC

Mining Association of SC

Motorcoach Association of SC

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

SC Alliance to Fix Our Roads

SC Beverage Association

SC Farm Bureau

SC Timber Producers Association

SC Trucking Association

# # #

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South Carolina Flood Relief

U.S. Soldiers with the 742nd Maintenance Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, work alongside local law enforcement, the State Guard and volunteers, to distribute drinking water to residents affected by  the South Carolina flood at the Lower Richland High School, Columbia, S.C., Oct. 6, 2015. The South Carolina National Guard has been activated to support state and county emergency management agencies and local first responders as historic flooding impacts counties statewide. Currently, more than 1,100 South Carolina National Guard members have been activated in response to the floods. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

Dear Friends,

SCFOR would like to extend our most sincere thoughts and prayers to the families, businesses, emergency responders, and all who were affected by the tragic events following the historic flooding. South Carolina is a strong community and it has demonstrated its resilience through the outpouring support for our fellow neighbors during these trying times. It will take months to rebuild all the damages incurred, but with the help of our community and government officials, we will make it through and become an even stronger South Carolina.

Please consider volunteering or donating resources to help those affected by the flooding.

Please visit the United Way Association of South Carolina website to view volunteer opportunities across areas in the midlands affected by the tragic weather conditions.

The American Red Cross of the Palmetto South Carolina Region needs volunteers to assist in shelter operations and disaster assessment. New volunteers can visit org/SC and click on volunteer to start the application process. Or text REDCROSS to 90999

  • More volunteer Red Cross information can also be found at the following numbers:
    • Charleston – 843-764-2323 x321
    • Columbia – 803-508-5251
    • Myrtle Beach – 843-764-2323 x321
    • Upstate – 864-270-9575

Visit The South Carolina Baptist Convention to assist in their efforts to deploy food and child care units to assist flood victims. A chainsaw unit also is on the ground, helping to remove fallen trees interfering with power lines.

The Salvation Army is assisting communities along the East Coast by providing food, water and shelter to flood victims. You can donate to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts online or by texting STORM to 51555.

Donate to Harvest Hope Food Bank  to help displaced families who are in need of food. Donating money on-line to Harvest Hope is the simplest way to feed your hungry neighbors. Their online form is fast and convenient to fill out – and your donation is tax deductible.

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Highway Trust Fund to Expire in June 2016


The US DOT has updated its Highway Trust Fund ticker to say that the federal government is now projected to run out of money for infrastructure projects in June 2016, six months later than previously expected.  The agency says that an $8 billion extension passed by Congress in July for the beleaguered highway fund will cover payments to states for transportation projects until the end of the third quarter of the 2016 fiscal year.

The extension had been expected to provide infrastructure funding only until December 2015 when it was approved, but transportation officials said they would be able to make the dollars stretch further than expected because the pace of U.S. construction typically slows down greatly in the winter. The agency is cautioning Congress, though, that it will still have to pass an extension of the federal policy that authorizes the transportation spending by Oct. 29.

“However, it is important to note that many programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund are only authorized through October 29, 2015,” the agency continued. “Although sufficient balances exist in the Highway Trust Fund to maintain solvency through the third quarter of FY 2016, an October 29th lapse in authorization prevents new obligations in Highway and Transit programs and impacts reimbursements to States.”

The extra cushion could give lawmakers cover to pass another temporary extension of federal highway funding instead of finishing work on a multi-year transportation bill, which has been sought by infrastructure advocates for years.

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Congress too gutless to raise federal gas tax

empty gas tax

By: Dick Polman – Daily Sun News on August 7, 2015

If you want to see Washington in action – or, more precisely, Washington inaction – consider its latest wimpish response to our infrastructure crisis.

Since infrastructure is such a snore word, I’ll explain. Our roads and bridges are in bad shape and getting worse.

More than 70,000 bridges are currently listed as “structurally deficient” – or, as ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a Republican) calls them, “dangerous.”

Last month, an Interstate-10 bridge that links California and Arizona collapsed.

For six decades, a federal kitty called the Highway Trust Fund has financed the repairs of federal roads and bridges. The fund gets its money from motorists, who pay a federal tax at the gas pump.

As Ronald Reagan said, during his second year in the White House, “When we built our highways we paid for them with a gas tax. It was a fair concept then, and it is today.”
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Nation’s Crumbling Roads Put a Dent in Drivers’ Wallets


Deteriorating highways are adding to auto maintenance costs in the U.S.

On his way home recently, Oklahoma City mapmaker Alex Sherman felt the telltale jolt of his car hitting a pothole. The hole in the road didn’t surprise him, but the $560 price tag to replace his tire and alloy wheel did.

Potholes, he said, are “one constant we’ve got around here.”

As highways and streets age and deteriorate, drivers like Mr. Sherman are shelling out more on auto repairs.

A variety of studies point to rising maintenance costs that they attribute in large part to poor road conditions. The American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, pegged the price at $324 per driver in 2013, the most recent year available, up from $275 in 2005. TRIP, a transportation research group, has determined that the average American driver spent $516 in 2013 on repairs, depreciation, additional fuel and new tires, up from $355 in 2010.

While “there’s been some improvement in overall bridge condition, overall pavement conditions are getting worse,” said Rocky Moretti, research director at TRIP, which receives funding from highway construction and manufacturing sources.

Much of the country’s road infrastructure dates from the 1950s and 1960s and is starting to show its age. Spending, however, hasn’t kept up with maintenance needs. That is partly because the price of construction materials rose rapidly in the early 2000s, outpacing government spending and making it more difficult to fill backlogs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The recession from 2007 to 2009 also led to a sharp drop in transportation spending at the state and local level that has yet to be made up.

Using an infrastructure-specific inflation measure, the CBO estimates that in real terms highway spending by federal, state and local governments —which totaled $165 billion in 2014—has fallen by 19% from its peak in 2002. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says it would cost $740 billion to meet current demand.

Much of the cost is being transferred to individuals and businesses in the form of added vehicle repairs. “The consequence is that we’re all paying more to maintain our cars,” said Genevieve Giuliano, a transportation policy expert at the University of Southern California.

In Congress, lawmakers have passed a series of short-term funding measuring, the latest this week, as they look for a way to direct more money to the federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund’s main revenue source, the gas tax, is no longer sufficient to cover its obligations. The federal government provides slightly more than a quarter of all highway funding, much of it from the highway fund.

Lawmakers will need to find an additional $11 billion for 2016, rising to $15 billion by 2020, to keep the fund solvent, according to CBO projections.

Recent driving trends suggest the costs to motorists are only going to increase. After stalling during the last recession, the number of miles Americans drove climbed 1.7% last year. Vehicle-miles driven are up 3.4% so far this year over last, according to the Transportation Department.

Trucking companies also say they have seen road conditions hurt the bottom line. Duane Long, chairman of a small North Carolina-based trucking company called Longistics, said recently he had just received word that he would have to replace 27 tires costing $500 each due in part to road conditions.

“That’s over 10 grand, and we’re a small company. And that was just today,” he said. The costs can add up and have lasting economic consequences.

“The crumbling and decline of infrastructure does erode productivity,” said Susan Lund, an economic at the McKinsey Global Institute. “Over time, that really starts to build up.”

A 2013 McKinsey study recommended that the U.S. boost overall infrastructure spending from the current 2.6% of gross domestic product to 3.6%, an increase of between $150 and $180 billion a year. The short-term impact would add $270 billion and $320 billion to annual economic growth by 2020, the study found.

Those kinds of investments have been on the minds of Federal Reserve officials as well. Speaking to a Senate panel last month, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen cited increased capital investment “both public and private,” as a way to boost productivity and incomes.

By: David Harrison, Wall Street Journal

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South Carolina’s Rural Roads Need Congress to Act on Transportation Funding

Eric Dickey

Chairman SCFOR

Policymakers in Washington ignored key facts about our state when they recently ducked their responsibility to provide long-term, ongoing funding for South Carolina’s and all of America’s highways, bridges and public transit systems. Instead, they passed a bill to provide funding through July and barely pay for the upkeep of those systems; that’s not good enough for South Carolina.

The “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland” report released by non-profit research group TRIP, AAA, the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Travel Association found traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads in South Carolina are significantly higher than all other roads in the state. In 2013, non-Interstate rural roads in South Carolina had the second highest rate nationally and nearly five times higher than the traffic fatality rate for all other roads in state. The report also found significant deficiencies in our rural bridges. In 2014, 12 percent of our rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient – 19th highest rate in the nation.

The federal surface transportation program – on which Congress punted – is a critical source of funding for rural roads and transportation infrastructure nationwide. The current federal surface transportation program is on life support through late July. According to the stakeholders who released the rural roads report, Congress needs to do much more.

In the view of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also leads the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition:  “Improving the transportation system will create jobs today and leave a lasting asset for future generations.”  And in AAA’s view:  “The 61 million people who live in America’s rural heartland deserve a transportation system that is safe, efficient and reliable.”

The quality of life in South Carolina’s and America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the rural economy is highly reliant on the quality of rural transportation systems – even more than urban areas. The TRIP report made practical recommendations such as the following to help bring our rural communities up to par:  modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, improving public transit access to rural areas, and providing adequate funding for rural transportation assets.

It’s time for South Carolinians to tell Congress to take seriously the need to fix our rural roads – and our entire transportation infrastructure. No more delays, no more excuses.

Eric Dickey


South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads

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Retail Pump Prices Mostly Slide After Tax Increase


Six states raised their gas taxes on July 1 in order to help pay for transportation projects, but an ARTBA analysis shows actual retail prices at the pump mostly fell, in line with recent patterns. Residents of Idaho, Georgia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Vermont all saw their gas taxes raised at the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. The largest increase took place in Idaho, where the 7 cents-per-gallon hike was signed into law in late April, while Georgians saw their gas taxes go up by 6.7 cents-per-gallon. Other increases ranged from 0.35 cent-per-gallon in Vermont to 1.8 cents-per-gallon in Maryland.

The tax increases, however, did not translate to an actual penny-to-penny increase in the retail price motorists paid at the pump, keeping in line with a recent ARTBA analysis that shows only a percentage of the levy is passed on to consumers. Daily data from AAA showed the national average retail price of gasoline slid 0.5 cent from June 30 to July 1, while the largest of only two gains in state retail prices took place in Nebraska, where prices rose 0.3 cent. In Idaho, where the largest gas tax increase of 7 cents went into effect, prices rose just 0.2 cent, while prices in the other four states slumped on July 1.

On July 2, the national average retail price rose 0.4 cent, while the largest state gain in prices was 3.1 cents in Idaho, followed by 0.7 cent in Georgia. State prices in Maryland, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Vermont, however, fell from July 1 to July 2, and prices in all four states remained under prices from June 30, prior to the gas tax increases taking effect.
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Pump Shock: Study Finds Surprising Market Impact of Gas Tax Increase


(Washington)—Increasing the gas tax does not result in a commensurate penny-to-penny increase in the retail price motorists pay at the pump, a study of the market impacts of five state gas tax increases enacted in 2013 found.

The analysis, by Dr. Alison Black, chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), found, on average, the price for a gallon of regular gasoline the day after a state gas tax increase goes into effect only reflects about 22 percent of the new levy.  A month after enactment, only about a third of the levy shows up in the pump price, she says, and thereafter, it is not a significant retail price factor.

The study also found that since 2005 the average weekly price of gasoline nationally has fluctuated, on average, five cents per gallon.  Black says a modest increase in the federal gas tax rate to restore the purchasing power of the user fee—last adjusted in 1993—would likely be “lost” in the week-to-week price fluctuation experienced at the pump.

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Can New Revenues Help Repair SC Roads?


After months of debate and stalemates, the senate failed to pass a bill this legislative session that would provide funding to repair our broken roadways.

But there’s a chance for lawmakers to provide short-term funding for this year. New revenues recently certified are at the disposal of the Senate and House of Representatives as they return to Columbia to finalize a budget for fiscal year 2015-2016.

These new revenues do not come close to sufficiently funding South Carolina’s crumbling infrastructure, but a drop in the bucket is better than no drops at all.

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