Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Word from around the state...fix our roads

As our staff hit the highways again this week, the whole road funding issue really hit home as we bobbed and weaved down I-95 and over Highway 17 to Port Royal avoiding potholes. Yep, our roads are definitely a problem.

The almost-200 local officials who have attended our six Regional Advocacy Meetings to date have brought up transportation issues from a number of perspectives. Today several cities talked about problems with DOT and its process for managing local projects…a problem we’ve heard around the state.

Another transportation issue that comes up frequently is the idea of the state transferring ownership of roads to cities and counties. Many cities and towns are already taking on the responsibility of mowing rights-of-way and repairing state roads. 

So if cities are forced to continue mowing rights-of-way and paving roads to keep their communities safe and liveable, they must also be given the authority to raise revenue to pay for these services. The question really boils down to what level of government assesses the fees or taxes for road maintenance and repair. 

These transportation conversations are taking place all over the state right now. The state chamber of commerce reports similar transportation conversations at its series of grassroots meetings. Association staff has been attending meetings of a transportation study committee appointed by Interim Speaker Jay Lucas looking at transportation needs.

Also, legislative staff from the Association last week participated in the annual meeting of SC Fix Our Roads, a statewide group advocating for increased transportation funding. Our staff reported that the sentiments at that meeting echoed everything that we are hearing at the Regional Advocacy Meetings from local officials and legislators alike… this issue must be addressed in 2015.

So what's the sustainable funding strategy that will fill this gap? Is it an increase in the gas user fee? An increase in the $300 sales tax limit on new cars? Tolls? More local flexibility to raise revenue for maintenance and repairs? Stay tuned.  

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