COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina ranks first in the nation in overall highway performance and cost-effectiveness, according to an annual study of all 50 states. The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, has published the study for 22 years.
The news is certainly a surprise to South Carolina drivers, most of whom complain about the condition of the state’s roads. But the study is not based on how good the roads are; it’s based on how much the state spends on them.
South Carolina ranks first in total spending per mile (which means it spent the least per mile), first in capital-bridge spending, fifth in maintenance spending, and fifth in administrative costs. The state ranks 47th in fatality rate, 24th in deficient bridges, 9th in rural Interstate pavement condition, 11th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 17th in urbanized area traffic congestion.
The South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads has been pushing for a gas tax increase as a way to improve roads. “South Carolina roads are terrible. Only 18 percent of our roads are in good condition right now,” says Jordan Marsh, with the Alliance. The state’s gas tax hasn’t gone up since 1987. He says the study proves that the problem with South Carolina’s roads is not that the DOT gets enough money but is wasteful with it.
“The report found that South Carolina ranks number one in the cost-effectiveness of the Department of Transportation. So that means that we are taking the dollars that are given to the department and putting them out in a manner that is more effective and more meaningful than any other state in the country,” he says. “We do a great job with the limited resources that are available. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough resources to fully fix our roads.”
SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said in a written statement, “SCDOT appreciates receiving the top ranking from the Reason Foundation in Overall Performance and cost effectiveness. SC once again is recognized as having the fourth largest highway system in the nation that is funded at the lowest level per mile in the nation. This report is clear evidence of SCDOT being a national leader in doing more with less.
Despite having the lowest expenditures per mile in the nation; SC’s interstate condition rates in the Top 10, Bridge Conditions are rated 24th, and Congestion is rated 17th. We also particularly appreciate the recognition of the agency’s focus of keeping our administrative costs down while putting as much funding as possible on our roads and bridges.
However, we should recognize that spending less per mile in the nation also means that some needs are unmet and deferred maintenance is accumulating rapidly over time. With regards to Pavement Condition, this report speaks to the condition of a relatively narrow segment of our state system. For example, the nearly 10,000 centerline mile long Primary system is not included in the Pavement Condition measure within the Reason Foundation report. This is the same segment of the state system that Secretary Hall has declared to be in a state of crisis due to its poor condition.
Additionally, being ranked among the worst in the nation on fatalities is not something to be proud of and a trend that we must reverse. SCDOT will be calling on our policy makers to help implement a Rural Highway Safety Program aimed at reducing fatalities on our roads where high rates of fatalities occur.
SCDOT is proud and honored by this recognition, However, our mission is to improve the quality and safety of South Carolina’s highway system and that mission continues. This is a task that demands our attention every day. Secretary Hall said, “We reaffirm the agency’s commitment to our citizens to work hard to maintain our highways and bridges and manage our available resources as best we can.”
You can see the entire Reason Foundation report here.