The hum of engines and passing drivers rush down King Street as North Charleston resident James Conyers fills up his tank at a Shell gas station.
He often checks gas prices to make sure he's not overpaying, but he doesn't always notice small increases on his bill.
Fluctuating fuel costs is something Coyners has learned to tolerate because driving is his main form of transportation.
"If you've got a car, it's not going to matter because you still need to fill up,” he said. "It's not something you can really control. It's a give-and-take situation. You just have to deal with it if you want to get places.”
But starting this weekend, Coyners said he may pay closer attention to how much he's paying at the pump.
The state's gas tax will increase by 2 cents per gallon Saturday in the first of six, 2-cent bumps scheduled for the the next six years, for 12 cents total more.
Passed by the General Assembly this year, the increases will raise the state gas tax to 28.75 cents per gallon by 2021 to address the state's woeful roads.
The current 16.75 cents per gallon tax hasn’t changed since 1987.
The state Department of Transportation expects to collect $149 million in the first year.
"It’s going to take a while to return the state of roads and bridges to the state they were in," said DOT Secretary Christy Hall. "It’s not going to change overnight, but the public will see incremental change.”
More than $600 million a year is expected once the full increase is implemented, according to DOT.
Average drivers could pay an extra $57.39 yearly for gas once the tax is fully implemented, according to state estimates.
Members of the business community and automotive industry welcomed the gas tax increase as a way to improve roadways.
“It’s a responsible increase phased in as additional taxes, but (businesses) understand it’s going to a purpose that needs to be addressed,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Motor club AAA supported the increase as well.
Rick Todd, president of the S.C. Trucking Association, said the 2-cent bump will have a minimal effect because fuel costs have remained low.
“Two cents shouldn’t to make or break an operation,” he said.
Nationally, drivers this Fourth of July holiday will see the cheapest gas prices since 2005, a GasBuddy report said.
U.S. consumers were paying an average of $2.23 per gallon at the pump as of Friday afternoon, well under the 10-year average of $3.14, GasBuddy said. The South Carolina average price was $1.88 per gallon Friday, the site said.
At least five states increased their gas tax this year.
South Carolina's gas tax increase was part of a highway bill that became law in May. It had strong support in the General Assembly, but Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed the legislation. Legislators overrode the veto.
In addition to the gas tax increase, the bill includes sales tax and fee increases and tax breaks.
Other parts of the law that will go into effect Saturday include:
- A $500 tax for vehicle purchases over $10,000
- A $500 fee to register out vehicles
- A $250 fee to register cars from out of state
On Savannah Highway, Palmetto Ford Lincoln Sales Manager Lane Arnold said most customers aren’t put off by the sales tax increase. Many are retirees from the Northeast or Midwest who are used to paying more taxes to buy a car, anyway.
"We've been telling customers the sales tax would go up," he said. "Some say they want to buy now, but others are fine waiting."
Other parts of the bill that will go into effect in 2018:
- Property tax cuts for manufacturers
- Tax rebates for gas and vehicle repairs
- Earned income tax credits for low income earners
- Tax refunds for South Carolina college students
DOT already has plans for some of the early spending including investing $50 million in the Rural Road Safety Program to repair highways across the state. The first phase of improvements has been approved along routes including U.S. Highway 76 in Richland County and U.S. 29 in Anderson County.
"They're going to be doing something useful," Coyners said. "If it's for the roads, what's the problem?"