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Report: State transportation faces $29 billion funding shortfall

Staff Report
Published Dec. 11, 2012

South Carolina is facing a funding shortfall of more than $29 billion over the next 20 years to cover the cost of repairing roads, replacing bridges and investing in mass transit and rail transportation, according to a new report offered by the state Transportation Department.

The final report of the Transportation Infrastructure Task Force, chaired by Craig Forrest, vice chairman of the state commission, said the state faces a “guaranteed decline in the system over the next 20 years” if it doesn’t come up with the money.

“To address this, it is clear that a bottom-up review of revenue policy is in order,” the report added.

Statewide transportation needs through 2033 total $48.3 billion, but anticipated funding — which includes state and federal tax appropriations — will total $19 billion, the report said. That leaves a 20-year funding shortfall of $29.34 billion.

In the 16-page report, the task force outlines new revenue funding needs from 2014 through 2033. Just in 2014, the Transportation Department will need $450 million in new revenue, the report said. The amount steadily increases from there, reaching nearly $1.9 billion in new revenue by 2033.

Funding needs through 2033 including $3 billion for bridge replacement, $17 billion for highway maintenance, $11 billion for highway upgrades, $11 billion for interstate highway upgrades, $3.9 billion for mass transit, $1.4 billion for passenger rail and $1 billion for safety.

The report also covers the economic forces and politics that have led to the funding shortfall.

“These forces include inflation, changing freight patterns, anti-tax sentiments, unfunded mandates, fragmentation of governance, and state government’s high level of responsibility for highways vis-a-vis local government as compared to the national norm,” the report said.

The report noted that the average state is responsible for only 19% of the public miles within its borders, but South Carolina’s “level of responsibility is more than three times the national average.”

The report aimed to provide a basic understanding of transportation policy in South Carolina.

“While it is easy to assess blame or make excuses, there is clearly one logical and sensible conclusion that must be reached after reading this report. The time for action is now, before the decline of the highway system becomes irreversible,” the report said.