Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost South Carolina motorists a total of $5.4 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,850 per driver in some urban areas – 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, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in South Carolina, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “South Carolina Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout South Carolina, two-thirds of major, locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition, 10 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges are structurally deficient and the state has the highest rate of fatal traffic crashes in the nation. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with vehicle travel in South Carolina increasing 10 percent in the last three years.
Driving on deficient South Carolina roads costs the state’s drivers $5.4 billion per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculates the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson and Myrtle Beach urban areas.
The TRIP report finds that 29 percent of South Carolina’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while 35 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Nineteen percent of major urban roads are in fair condition and the remaining 17 percent are rated in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs South Carolina motorists an additional $1.8 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
“This is the year to finish the job on roads,” said Ted Pitts, president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. “The business community has long known the cost of losing when it comes to efforts to invest in our roads and bridges. We will continue working with members of the General Assembly to give the people of South Carolina what they want and deserve: a long-term investment in our infrastructure, which is a long-term investment in our future.”
The South Carolina Department of Transportation currently spends $415 million annually on road and highway pavement repairs and reconstruction. This represents less than half (46 percent) of the $900 million needed annually to significantly improve the state’s major roads and highways.
Increasing levels of traffic congestion cause significant delays in South Carolina, particularly in its larger urban areas, choking commuting and commerce. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.
Ten percent of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks and emergency services vehicles.
Traffic crashes in South Carolina claimed the lives of 4,406 people between 2012 and 2016. South Carolina’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.89 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is the highest in the nation and significantly higher than the national average of 1.13. South Carolina’s rural roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly four times higher than on all other roads in the state (3.82 fatalities per 100 million VMT vs. 1.03).
The efficiency and condition of South Carolina’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $333 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in South Carolina, mostly by truck. Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually to and from sites in South Carolina are carried by trucks and another 14 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.
“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists, if greater investment is not made available at the state and local levels of government,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate funding, South Carolina’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”