The South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads has begun to lobby for an increase in the state's motor fuel tax to fund more than $50 billion in needed transportation improvements.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, which is composed of business leaders and chambers of commerce across the state, claims highway funding in South Carolina comes primarily from the 16.75 cents-per-gallon on gas that has not been increased or adjusted for inflation since 1987.

Across the Southeast, the group said, 51% of state highway funding is derived from sources other than gas taxes and user fees. In South Carolina, close to 90% comes of highway funds are derived from motor fuel taxes.

The state's tax on gas is the lowest in the Southeast and the fourth-lowest in the nation, though the state highway system covers 41,429 miles.

"This is 63%, or two-thirds, of the public miles in the state and over three times higher than the national average of 19%," said the alliance on its website at www.sctransportation.com.

"Because both the federal government and the state government here in South Carolina pay for highways from fuel taxes, this ultimately hurts our ability to keep the highway system safe and efficient," the alliance said. "The only way to increase revenue is to put more cars on the road and burn more gallons of motor fuel. This puts a greater strain on the highways and requires more maintenance."

South Carolina projects that $30 billion of funding will be needed over the next 20 years to bring roads up to a good level of service, the group claims.

Those needs include repairs to 907 structurally deficient bridges and 774 functionally obsolete bridges.

Without additional funding, the state Department of Transportation can only manage the continued decline of the system, the organization claims.

"Moving forward, the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads plans to join forces with other organizations that recognize and support the need for a vision and a plan," the group said. "There are many groups who hope to increase money for roads in South Carolina. Banding together to form a strong coalition of stakeholders is the best path forward."

The alliance said it plans to "facilitate discussions and organize actions to approach our common goals together… to bring about a positive change and increase funding for South Carolina's highways."

The group reportedly has already hired experts to lobby the Republican-controlled General Assembly for an increase in the tax, though the specific amount has yet to be discussed.

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