South Carolina must focus on improving and modernizing our critical infrastructure if we are going to continue growing a strong, resilient economy that supports our major industries, strengthens local businesses, and creates jobs for hardworking South Carolinians. Fortunately, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we are moving key infrastructure projects forward across the state.
As a state, we are fortunate to have major manufacturers maintaining a presence in South Carolina, including Boeing, Volvo, BMW, and Michelin, to name a few. As these companies seek to invest in their South Carolina-based facilities in order to increase capacity or add new production lines, it is critical that we are able to provide increased and improved surface transportation, as well as rail and port capacity, that can meet the additional demand for imported materials and to export finished products in South Carolina, across the country, and throughout the world.
Based on formula funding, South Carolina is set to receive $4.6 billion over the next five years to support federal-aid highway improvement projects and another $274 million to repair and replace bridges across the state. In addition, we can compete for a portion of $12.5 billion from the Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges. These investments are critical, especially considering a 2021 report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found 745 bridges in South Carolina to be structurally deficient. The SCDOT has also emphasized bridge repair and replacement as a major component of its 10-year management plan.
Additionally, thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, both the South Carolina Ports Authority, along with the 480 miles of waterways that are critical to the economic wellbeing of our state, will see increased infrastructure investments upwards of $17 billion over the next five years. This includes funding for port expansion projects and initiatives that will help support a stronger, more connected supply chain capable of expediting goods to and from manufacturers across the state and throughout our region.
It also includes funding for coastal resiliency projects to protect the port and its major manufacturing, transportation, and logistics industry presence. These efforts to strengthen and secure our existing port infrastructure will further support economic development in Charleston, across South Carolina, and throughout the Southeast, as the South Carolina Ports Authority serves as a major supply chain partner for large metropolitan areas such as Charlotte, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee.
The South Carolina General Assembly’s decision to allocate $120 million in matching funds to draw down federal dollars and $600 million for interstate widening projects to support the new infrastructure at the South Carolina Ports Authority, among other notable infrastructure investments, has also had considerable impact on addressing South Carolina’s infrastructure needs. Governor McMaster deserves to be commended for his strategic approach and timely approval of state funds that allowed South Carolina to secure most, if not all, federal dollars available for new infrastructure. All in all, investments from the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act that Congress passed last year, plus the funds from the state legislature, will help South Carolina continue to strengthen its economy and support our growing population and workforce.
Given the importance of these efforts, South Carolinians should be grateful to Senator Lindsey Graham for supporting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and ensuring we are moving forward in a smart, responsible, and pro-growth way.
- Jeff Mulliken is a Partner at the Carolina Transportation Engineers and Associates and President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina.
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