Nobody likes to spend money on maintenance. It’s not “new,” and it almost always feels like one of those things your mother told you to do that you know is right, but just isn’t much fun.

It is necessary, though. Machinery, equipment, the human body – almost any kind of asset for that matter – has to be maintained or they will eventually become unusable.

Roads and other parts of the state’s transportation infrastructure are no exception. Pee Dee drivers know this from bbbbbbbumping along on rough and rugged area highways every day.

And South Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge knows it, too. He told a state commission last week, just as it received a report on the subject, that the state must spend to maintain its roads or risk dealing its already fragile economy a crippling blow.

St. Onge was more specific than just that. He said the state needs to spend $48 billion over the next 20 years to keep its transport system at an acceptable level. That sounds like a daunting task and it is. If the state makes no changes to its funding mechanism for transportation, it will take in about $19 billion in that same period.

Math whizzes in the audience will note that the shortfall is considerably greater than the expected income.

Of more import is the baseline message, which might have particular resonance here in the Pee Dee, where a gigantic new road project (I-73) has been proposed. And here it is: South Carolina’s roads have so many remedial needs that new work should be considered very, very carefully. A project like the South Carolina section of I-73 would siphon off $2 billion – one fifteenth of St. Onge’s 20-year repair need – for relatively meager benefits.

Fixing a couple dozen bridges doesn’t sound exciting, but in the grand scheme of things, it makes a whole lot more sense.