South Carolina's infrastructure bank is in need of some patch work

Counties struggling to come up with matching funds should not be completely ignored

Blog Entry September 24, 2012

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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I was needling my wife a little bit. Our oldest son, Aidan, joined Cubs Scouts a couple of months ago, and as the days drew closer to his first official pack meeting, the time for sewing on his starter patches turned immediate. So, in a very tactful way, I kept nudging her to complete the task. Then Aidan received his first batch of badges, and now I am quite certain my wife wants to needle me in the eye.

 

Aidan received about 20 badges. He participated in a hike a few weeks ago, and for that he received a hike badge, bird-watching badge, some badge that has a picture of a mountain, another badge that has a picture of a snake and one more that features a sun. He also went on a shooting expedition (BB gun and archery), and proceeded to get a badge for attempting to shoot a BB gun, a badge for attempting to launch an arrow, and a third--which is one that is a result of, in my mind, an actual accomplishment, for landing three arrows on the target. When I was in Cubs Scouts, we had four badges to shoot for--Bobcat, Wolf, Bear and Weblos. Now if you use your scissors properly during a den meeting (oh yeah, he received a badge for scrapebooking), you receive official kudos.

 

Badges for everyone apparently is the theme here--and the more badges, the better.

 

The state of South Carolina has an award system when it comes to its infrastructure bank. If you give, then you receive. The problem is, South Carolina's upper counties have not received much in terms of SIB funding over the years. Why? Because they have not turned in the necessary paperwork, most likely due to the fact that they do not have the matching funds to participate. As a result, their road and bridge system suffers. On the other hand, more urban counties like Charleston have been swimming in SIB-backed money. Recently it received $138 million for a controversial $550 million 8-mile extension of I-526.

 

Now, I am not a big fan of the Cubs Scouts' motto of making sure everyone gets a piece of the badge action, just like I am not in favor of handing out participation trophies in youth sports. For those keeping count, Aidan has about 12 of those, too, and he's 6. However, I do believe the state is ultimately responsible for making sure the road and bridge system is up to snuff. Perhaps state officials in South Carolina need to encourage these upper counties to apply for more SIB loans. Local officials, however, also need to be aware of the benefits of this pile of cash and find ways to generate the necessary matching dollars.

 

But I still think the state needs to do something more. The SIB loans should be spread out, regardless of financial shortcomings of certain counties. Sure, Charleston county would still receive more, but you simply cannot completely ignore those that are less fortunate. South Carolina needs to get away from this patchy approach.

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