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SC Transportation Commission signs off on new transportation plan

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The South Carolina Transportation Commission has given final approval to a plan projecting the state will need to spend another $60 billion during the next quarter century on roads, money which the state does not have.

The Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan, which was the topic of public hearings around the state earlier this year, was approved at last week's commission meeting in Columbia.

It projects that by 2040, the state will need to spend another $70 billion on transportation — about $60 billion of it on roads. The plan said with current revenue projections of only $28 billion during that period, the state will be about $1.5 billion short each year of meeting its highway needs.

Commission Chairman W.B. Cook said in a news release that the commission will discuss how to get the money and says the study can't be allowed to languish. The plan, which outlines transportation needs in all areas, is updated every five years.

Finding a way to fix South Carolina's roads and bridges will be a top priority when lawmakers return to Columbia next month for the new legislative session. Up to a dozen bills to spend more highway money into are expected to be introduced.

One introduced last week by state Sen. Nikki Setzler, a Democrat from West Columbia, sets aside about $60 million yearly from sales tax collected on vehicles to be used for adding lanes to existing interstate highways.

The intermodal plan found that in 2011, 31 percent of the state's interstate highway system experienced congestion for at least one peak hour a day. That figure is expected to rise to 62 percent by 2040.

The state maintains about 41,000 miles of roads, about half of that secondary roads for which the state receives no federal transportation money. One House committee has proposed transferring maintenance of those roads to South Carolina's counties. The counties are opposed to that proposal.

Gov. Nikki Haley plans to release her plan for paying for roads next month. But her office has said any road plan will not include raising taxes.

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