S.C. transportation plan to offer roadmap to future

By Chuck Crumbo
Published Jan. 30, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The S.C. Department of Transportation says South Carolina is facing a funding shortfall of $29 billion over the next 20 years to cover the cost of fixing roads and bridges, and investing in mass transit and rail transportation.

A SCDOT report pegged the state’s transportation needs through 2033 at $48.3 billion. But anticipated funding — including state and federal tax appropriations — is estimated to total $19 billion. That means an annual funding shortfall of roughly $1.5 billion for the next 20 years.

Given the state’s limited wallet, the SCDOT is putting together a 25-year statewide multi-modal plan to move freight by ground, rail and air.

Scott Mason, the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics at Clemson University
Scott Mason, the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics at Clemson University

The plan, to be released in January 2014, also involves the S.C. Department of Commerce and S.C. State Ports Authority.

The plan will prioritize future transportation infrastructure requirements and serve as a tool to spur job creation, business expansion and education. It also will analyze infrastructure requirements, as well as rail, freight and transit components.

The transportation plan will serve as a roadmap to a South Carolina of the future and shape the state’s economy, supporters say.

“What we want to be able to do is develop an efficient and seamless transportation system,” said Doug Frate, deputy director for intermodal and freight programs at SCDOT. “We have to be able to be in a position to effectively meet the critical transportation demands and further economic development efforts.”

The plan is expected to incorporate a number of the state’s advantages, including:

The state is just a two-day drive from more than 200 million Americans, and home to five interstate highways offering east-west and north-south access to the rest of the nation.

· Two world class railroads — CSX and Norfolk Southern — serve the state via 2,400 miles of track.

· Nearly any location in the state is within an hour’s drive from primary airports at Charleston, Columbia, Greenville and Charlotte, which offer cargo services.

· South Carolina is one of the leading areas in the world that offers affordable and reliable energy.

“When you listen to these manufacturers, the one thing they like about South Carolina is the infrastructure,” said Doug Woodward, an economist at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. “If we hadn’t made investments in our port and our highways, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

As part of SCDOT’s effort to draw up a transportation plan, it has held meetings around the state to understand statewide freight needs, find ways to reduce bottlenecks, and improve efficiency on the interstate highways and other corridors.

In conjunction with the meetings, Scott Mason, who holds the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics in Clemson University’s industrial engineering department, has interviewed key stakeholders to get their thoughts on the state’s transportation needs.

“I hear a lot about the strengths, what our state does well,” Mason said.

However, many of the executives are concerned about how the state plans to pay for future transportation needs, he said.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-401-1024, ext. 204.

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