Pricier SCDOT Material to Reduce Road Repairs

Wed April 13, 2005 - Southeast Edition
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COLUMBIA, SC (AP) State transportation officials are redesigning the road-paving process for rural roads after complaints about the current system, including broken windshields, dented cars and unrepaired holes in roads.

South Carolina has used a tar and gravel process, which mixes crushed stone with spray asphalt, to pave the state’s 25,000 mi. (40,200 km) of secondary roads. The process has been used for decades because it costs approximately one-third as much as normal paving.

Danny Shealy, director of construction for the state Transportation Department, said the new process will use a stickier tar to hold the stone better. He said lighter stone from North Carolina will be used in some areas to address a shortage of the normal stone used in the process.

“North Carolina uses it extensively,” he said. “We’ve done a couple of test projects in South Carolina and they’re performing well.”

But the new process will be more expensive — as much as 30 percent more — and that means fewer miles of road will be repaired.

State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said an improved paving system doesn’t help the overall condition of the state’s secondary roads.

“I think at some point in time the leadership in South Carolina has to confront the road problem and have some real debate over it,” he said.

Malloy said he worries the condition of rural roads could be a factor in accidents.

The fatality rate for South Carolina’s secondary roads between 1999 and 2003 was six times the fatality rate for other types of roads in the state and higher than the rates of all states except Arizona and Florida, according to TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group.

In at least one lawsuit against the state Transportation Department, the death of a motorist was blamed on loose stone from a tar and gravel project.