While none of the intended infrastructure projects recently approved by a state panel are located in Aiken County, S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, feels that local residents will still benefit.
Last week, the state's Transportation Infrastructure Bank Board agreed to borrow $550 million for work on Interstates 20, 26, 77 and 85.
“The 10-mile widening of I-20 from four to six lanes through Lexington County west to Longs Pond Road, exit 51, will help alleviate the increasing traffic congestion toward Aiken County,” Taylor said.
“While Aiken County isn't in this current round of road improvements, it has fared well in the past with such projects at the Palmetto Parkway.”
Doug Mayer, spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley, said the agreement is a result of the governor's push for better infrastructure throughout the state.
“Gov. Haley pledged to address South Carolina's infrastructure in her 2013 State of the State address and did so when she signed into law a $1 billion transportation bill without raising taxes, representing the largest investment in roads and bridges in 25 years,” Mayer told the Aiken Standard.
The largest project would be $260 million to widen 16 miles of I-85 in Cherokee and Spartanburg counties, according to the Associated Press. In addition, more than $150 million would be used to widen 10 miles of I-20 in Lexington County.
Other projects include $80 million to redo the interchange of Interstates 385 and 85 in Greenville County; about $40 million to widen nearly three miles of I-77 in Richland County; and $20 million for planning for other projects, including the intersections of I-20 and I-26 outside Columbia.
"As a fiscal Conservative I'm not keen about borrowing, but the legislature found a unique way to leverage highway improvements without raising taxes," Taylor said. "To get projects started now rather than years from now, the legislature pledged $50 plus million a year for the next decade to repay the money the State Infrastructure Bank borrows. That means construction can be done in today's dollars rather than costing much more in later years when prices for everything increase."
“In a constituent mail survey I conducted over the past two weeks, 51 percent of those responding opposed raising the fee on gas,” he said.
“Many folks are still struggling financially from the Great Recession. Their reluctance to support any increase in the gas tax is practical and understandable.”
Mayer added, “Creating better infrastructure for South Carolina will continue to bring more and better jobs to the people of this state – doing so while living within our financial means is clearly possible and will remain one of the governor's priorities.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a quote given by S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.