Paved with More Than Good Intentions

April 23, 2015

Inside Insight

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ariail more than good intentions

SOUTH CAROLINA ROADS AREN’T ALL DEPLORABLE

In South Carolina, road funding tends to gravitate to a few political influential counties. South Carolinians who traverse the state by car have known this for a long time: If it’s potholes you want to avoid, drive in Charleston County (where the Speaker of the House hailed from for a number of years), whereas driving on roads in certain other parts of the state can literally shatter your transmission.

The reason for this contrast is not that geographical interests aren’t represented at the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB). Legislative delegations appoint DOT Commissioners, and the STIB board is a reasonably diverse bunch from a geographical perspective.

No, the reason a few counties get the lion’s share of road money is that the legislature – and especially a few legislative leaders – control the state’s road funding system.

So when lawmakers say – as they frequently do – that our roads are in “deplorable shape” (and has anyone noticed how often the word “deplorable” has been used lately?), they’re really only telling part of the truth. Sure, most of the state’s roads are in bad shape. But if you’ve driven on state roads in Charleston or Florence lately, you might have a more nuanced view of the question.

Three years ago the Coastal Conservation League produced a terrific map showing how STIB money has tended to go the home counties of lawmakers responsible for appointing STIB board members, and to the home counties of the board members themselves. That doesn’t tell the whole story, but it tells a big part of it.

Meanwhile, do your car a favor. Take a drive on Highway 378 as it passes through Florence County.

The Nerve

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