MYRTLE BEACH, SC (News Release) - Deficient bridges and congested roads that lack desirable safety features cost South Carolina drivers $3 billion statewide annually, according to a new study. The reports states drivers in some areas spend as much as $1,300 each year due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.
Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in South Carolina, according to a new report released Thursday by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, "South Carolina Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State's Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility," finds that throughout South Carolina, 46 percent of major roads and highways (state-maintained Interstate, primary and secondary routes) are in poor condition, a significant increase from 2008 when 32 percent of the state's major roads were rated in poor condition.
One-fifth of South Carolina's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
The state's major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And South Carolina is tied with West Virginia for the highest overall traffic fatality rate in the nation, according to the report.
Driving on deficient roads costs each South Carolina driver as much as $1,250 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs, as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the cost of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor.
The TRIP report finds that 46 percent of South Carolina's major roads and highways (state-maintained Interstate, primary and secondary routes) have pavements that were rated in 2014 as being in poor condition, while an additional 38 percent were in fair condition and 16 percent were in good condition.
Driving on deteriorated roads costs South Carolina motorists an additional $1.1 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
Traffic congestion is worsening throughout the state, costing drivers a total of $775 million annually in lost time and wasted fuel.
"The South Carolina Department of Transportation manages the 41,000 miles of state funded roads with the third lowest motor fuel user fee in the nation. With an estimated additional $1.5 billion needed per year for the next 25 years to "get to good", they are currently having to do the best they can with what they have," said Eric Dickey, vice president of Davis & Floyd, Inc. and chairman of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR).
A total of 21 percent of South Carolina's bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards, the report states.
Eleven percent of South Carolina's bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional ten percent of the state's bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
South Carolina's overall traffic fatality rate of 1.76 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is the highest in the nation (tied with West Virginia) and significantly higher than the national average of 1.13. Traffic crashes in South Carolina claimed the lives of 4,315 people between 2008 and 2012.
The fatality rate on South Carolina's rural roads was 2.99 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2012, which is 61 percent higher than the national rural road average of 1.86 fatalities per 100 million miles.
The efficiency and condition of South Carolina's transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state's economy.
"We applaud the efforts of TRIP in bringing South Carolina's infrastructure needs front and center," said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "Having sufficient roads and bridges is vital to ensuring that our state's economic future is on the right course. In the Myrtle Beach area, where tourism is our primary economic driving force, more than 16 million visitors come to our community each year, primarily by driving. It is paramount that these guests find a safe, reliable transportation system. Our state currently lacks a workable investment strategy for repairing our roads and investing in important highways like Interstate 73. Our hope is this report will spur state officials and our Congressional delegation to take decisive action on this important issue."
The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in South Carolina. From 2008 to 2012, the federal government provided $1.12 for road improvements in South Carolina for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees.
In July 2014, Congress approved an eight-month extension of the federal surface transportation program, which will now run through May 31, 2015. The legislation will also transfer nearly $11 billion into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to preserve existing levels of highway and public transportation investment through the end of May 2015.