Originally created 02/20/03

Report finds poor roads



A new study ranks South Carolina as one of the lowest-spending states when it comes to road repair.

The Surface Transportation Policy Project, a lobbyist group, ranked the state as the nation's eighth-worst in terms of spending per mile to fix bad roads.

"We look at the study every year, and they say the same thing every year," said Pete Poore, the director of communications at the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

South Carolina spends an average of $19,662 to repair every mile of bad road, according to the survey.

The department is being squeezed for resources to keep the state highway system in good repair because of budget cuts, spokesman Michael Covington said.

The department has had to put the state's road resurfacing project on hold, leaving some roads with poorer conditions, he said. Other roads, including the portion of Interstate 20 that runs through Aiken County, will be resurfaced with federal dollars.

The study rates 42 percent of South Carolina roads in bad condition.

"Right now, we're just trying to protect the funds we already have," Mr. Covington said of the state's nearly $800 million transportation budget.

Georgia, by contrast, is the highest spender per mile of the 48 states reported, spending $321,294 per mile of bad road.

But this number is deceptive, because very few roads in Georgia - only 2.8 percent - are listed in poor condition, said Bert Brantley, a spokesman for the Georgia DOT.

About 15 percent of Georgia's road system is under state jurisdiction, Mr. Brantley said, compared with more than 60 percent in South Carolina.

The Palmetto State must also get much more of its transportation money - 92 percent of it - only from its 16 cent-per-gallon fuel tax, Mr. Covington said.

Georgia's fuel tax is 7.5 cents per gallon, but the state allows 3 percent of the state sales tax to go for transportation funding, Mr. Brantley said.

Georgia has fewer road repairs because the state is aggressive at improving its highway system, making it a top priority, Mr. Brantley said.

"Well-maintenanced roads are safer, easier on automobiles and result in better gas mileage," he said.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or at jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.