In the midst of the summer construction season, when milling machines are humming through work zones across the U.S., it was the South Carolina DOT that bit off more than it could chew.
Late payments to contractors and emergency federal funding has forced the S.C. DOT to take a harder look at accounting practices. The agency, the victim of its own aggressive construction schedule, held a meeting on Aug. 18 to announce $24 million in road projects would be delayed because of the fiscal crisis, and nearly cancelled the $2.4 billion freeway project to Myrtle Beach.
“We are going to try to ensure that we have better management and that we make wise decisions,” said South Carolina Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge. “We have an over-commitment that we need to resolve.”
S.C. DOT was more than 30 days late paying some contractors, and called on the U.S. DOT to drop $52 million in one lump sum to cover other delinquent payments. Below average fuel tax receipts and rising material costs contributed to the financial downfall.
The I-73 Myrtle Beach project was part of a road construction project package that included four other jobs and would require borrowing $344 million.
“In this financial environment, we’re going to have to do a lot of things to get the people of South Carolina back on our side,” said John Edwards, who was part of the commission that voted on the project delay on Aug. 18.