Photo by Andy Brack

To paraphrase the late New York City Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia, there’s not a Republican or Democratic way to pave a road. And there’s not really a Republican or Democratic way to react about local roads. In interacting with hundreds of people, we found no one who disagreed that our roads suck.

It’s time for local and state governments to do something about it — rather than continuing the current structural mishmash of bureaucratized reactions that compound problems. Instead of using a worn government structure set up 90 years ago to channel money and roadwork in a long, drawn out process from the federal government and state to fix roads, maybe the General Assembly should set up a new structure that gets things done more quickly and efficiently. Look at what’s happening elsewhere. It’s got to be better than what South Carolina is doing.

Our roads are a mess for reasons far beyond bureaucracies. Problems also stem from decades of deferred maintenance caused by political shenanigans by Republicans and Democrats to keep the state’s gas tax among the lowest in the nation. That caused the S.C. Department of Transportation to be woefully underfunded in dealing with potholes, resurfacing, preventive maintenance and just about anything smart to keep roads smooth.

On top of political incompetence that made many local roads a bumpy rollercoaster, there are more people who live in the Palmetto State. They now drive more road miles on what’s one of the largest state-owned road networks in the nation. More road miles from growth mean more wear and tear, which causes road quality to erode even more quickly than it used to. On top of all of this, in Charleston there are more frequent days of flooding, which further degrades the quality of local roads. 

Just drive down Calhoun Street or Hagood Avenue or Line Street or any of dozens of roads throughout Charleston County and you’ll be lucky not to hit your head on your car’s roof. 

We encourage readers of the Charleston City Paper to download the free Carbin road quality app developed by MIT and send results to city, county and state elected officials. Send data to illustrate how bad your roads are — and demand something be done about it. 

But with this kind of complaining, you also need to be ready for something else — to pay more in taxes to fix our roads. More than likely, such an investment, shared by all, would quickly pay for itself because you won’t have to replace as many tires ruined by potholes, nails, glass and other trash on the road. Investments won’t be inexpensive. In Charleston County, for example, there are 4,000 lane miles of roads. Local officials are expected to spend the repaving money they have this year to fix (wait for it) 25 miles of roads.

Any politicians who want to take on restructuring and how we go about fixing roads would likely have widespread support. So take a broad community hint and get to fixing the problem.

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