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Roads: After gas tax rise, paving needs still outpace funds
By Charles Swenson
Less than 10 percent of the state secondary roads in Georgetown County are rated in “good” condition, the lowest number among the eight counties in the region, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Even with the increase in the state gas tax approved by the legislature last year, local officials see little hope of raising that figure significantly. The DOT maintenance office this week presented a list of 96 resurfacing projects to the County Transportation Committee. “These are some of the roughest roads in the county,” said Nickey Lewis, the interim resident maintenance engineer.
The cost to repave them is $31.8 million. The county gets $1.5 million a year from the state for local road projects, money known as “C funds.” With the road-funding plan approved by the legislature, that will rise to $2.4 million by 2021.
Even at full-funding, the proposed repaving list is a 13-year plan. But that list “is only a fraction,” Lewis said. “There is a lot more out there.”
And not all the C funds are used for repaving state roads. By
law, a third of the funds must be used for the state roads in the county. Georgetown County also relies on C funds for road projects. And it also struggles to stay ahead.
The county wants to pave three roads in the rural Lanes Creek community at a cost of $526,000. But the lowest of seven bids received for the work was $440,000 over budget. “We’re ready to go in the next week or so,” said Ray Funnye, the county Public Services director, who has the transportation committee to make up the shortfall. The cost estimates were based on 2015 projects, he explained. But since the state has made more money available for road work, “the marketplace for paving has changed in South Carolina,” Funnye said.
The state has two categories of secondary roads: farm-to-market roads and neighborhood streets. In Georgetown County, two-thirds of the farm-to-market road pavement is rated poor and 27 percent is rated fair. Only 7 percent is rated good. There are 166 miles of farm-to-market roads in the county.
There are 335 miles of neighborhood streets in the county maintained by DOT. The pavement on 63 percent of those is rated poor. There is 28 percent rated fair and 9 percent rated good.
Lewis said his current resurfacing list tries to pick up those neighborhood streets that “are not as high on the radar.” There are some other options for funding larger roads. “These roads are less likely to be considered,” he said.
Based on the current level of funding, it would take the county’s yearly allocation of C funds to repave the first 13 roads on the list. That would include almost a mile of Murrells Inlet Road from Belin Drive to Sunnyside Avenue. (No. 5 on the list.) It also includes six streets at Garden City.
Wachesaw Road from Business 17 to the Waccamaw River is No. 20 on the list. The Ranked No. 55 to No. 62 are other portions of Murrells Inlet Road along with Wm. Dallas Avenue, Gibson Street, Little Tony Avenue, Vauxhall Drive, Old Kings Highway and Bellamy Avenue.
Aspen Loop in Litchfield Country Club is No. 88, followed by Litchfield Boulevard, Norris Drive and Sundial Drive in Litchfield Beach.
Only one road in the Pawleys Island area is on the list, a 370-foot portion of Tyson Drive in Hagley. It is ranked No. 23.
The transportation committee didn’t adopt the proposed list. It is still moving through the current list. Members heard a plea this week from residents in the Belle Isle area south of Georgetown who said two streets, Whitehall Avenue and Mallard Circle, haven’t been repaved since the 1980s. “Our road without potholes would not be a road,” said Rodney Long, an area resident. “It’s not even a matter of convenience. It’s desperate.”
The roads are No. 76 and No. 77 on the current list.
Committee member Bill Hills suggested he and the other six members needed to ride the roads to make sure the priorities were still in line. “That would help in situations such as Belle Isle,” he said.
Woodrow Doby, who chairs the committee, said he already rides the roads and fields phone calls about repaving. But he noted that in the past the county has taken the committee on road trips to look at conditions.
“I’d rather rely on experts,” committee member Richard Smith said. “I trust them. That’s what they get paid for.”
Although committee member Glen Insley pointed out that DOT has a scoring system to put roads on the repaving list, Lewis said his proposed list “is not completely data-driven.”
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