South Carolina’s infrastructure systems could see immediate and long-term funding boosts under a spending plan proposed Jan. 10 by Gov. Henry McMaster (R).
Taking advantage of what McMaster called “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” of having both $2.4 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds and a $3-billion state revenue surplus, the plan calls for allocating $1.26 billion “to accelerate construction, expansion or improvements to state-owned roads, bridges, highways and interstates.” High-priority projects identified for additional funding include widening Interstate 26 to six lanes between Columbia and Charleston, widening Interstate 95 to six lanes in the state’s Lowcountry region, and additional widening work along on Interstate 85.
McMaster announced the ARPA spending recommendations along with his proposed $10.7-billion FY2022-2023 budget, which also stresses stepped-up infrastructure spending. The budget directs $500 million to the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation’s ongoing road and bridge upgrade program, followed by a recurring investment of $100 million that would increase the agency’s annual federal revenues by approximately $250 million over the next five years.
In addition to allocating $360 million to the I-26 widening project, the budget calls for spending $300 million to start South Carolina’s portion of Interstate 73, a program that would upgrade existing corridors to interstate standards.
Other recommendations include spending $300 million to continue construction of the Navy Base Intermodal Facility on a 118-acre site on the former Charleston Naval Complex, and investing $500 million in programs aimed at modernizing the state’s water and sewer infrastructure.
McMaster’s spending proposals will compete for the attention of South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, which also has a tax-cut proposal, Congressional redistricting, voting reform and other potentially sensitive issues on its session agenda. In addition to the ARPA and surplus funds, the state also receives a $525-million settlement from its long-running legal battle with the U.S. Dept. of Energy over the removal and long-term storage of plutonium at the Savannah River Site.