COLUMBIA — Gas tax money is pumping in as expected following last year's road-funding law, and drivers will soon see construction statewide, Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said Wednesday.
"We're on target with everything," she said after her "State of the DOT" presentation to senators.
"As soon as the temperatures warm up, you should see ground breaking on projects all across the state. ... You will probably not be able to leave your house to go to work without seeing some sort of roadwork underway."
About 3,200 projects, contracted at roughly $3 billion, are getting done thanks to a series of laws passed since 2013, Hall said.
South Carolina's first gas tax increase in 30 years took effect in July under a law approved over Gov. Henry McMaster's veto. That initial 2-cents-per-gallon increase, to 18.75 cents, was the first increment of the law's 12-cent hike over six years.
That law is expected to bring in $150 million this fiscal year. Beyond the gas tax, its revenue sources include a $200 increase in the sales tax cap on vehicles — raising the max to $500 — and a $16 increase in vehicle registration fees.
When fully phased in, the law is projected to raise roughly $600 million annually for road construction. Combine that with laws passed in 2013 and 2016, which largely borrowed money for roads, and, eventually, there will collectively be $800 million extra available yearly for the next decade, Hall said.
The construction is expected to create 25,000 jobs statewide "once everything is fully ramped up," she said.
The money is still far from enough to fix the entire system. During the years-long debate, DOT officials told legislators it would take $1.1 billion annually over 25 years to bring the entire network to good condition.
The agency's 10-year plan for the new money is expected to bring 92 percent of pavement on the state's interstates up to good condition. About half of other major roads, and just 25 percent of local streets, will be in good condition, according to the presentation.
The rebuilding plan includes replaces 465 bridges — eliminating all that are load-restricted — and spending $50 million annually on safety improvements along the deadliest rural stretches, such as rumble strips, guard rails and either widening shoulders or building them where none exist.
The goal is to improve 100 miles a year over the next decade, Hall said.
"Thank you for moving the ball forward," Senate Transportation Chairman Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, told Hall. "You can only crawl as fast as we're allowing."