Transportation Secretary Reports Highway Improvements Saving Lives

September 24, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – September 24, 2008 – Transportation Secretary H.B. Limehouse Jr. has announced that safety improvements made by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) at intersections and on rural roads have begun to show results in reducing the crash and fatality rates at those locations in South Carolina. Limehouse made the announcement at the 2008 SC Highway Safety Conference being held in Columbia sponsored by the SC Department of Public Safety.

Limehouse reported that intersection safety improvements projects that included the addition of turn lanes, turn signals, and improved lines of sight for drivers among other measures, have resulted in a 60% decrease in crashes, and a 90% drop in the fatality rate. Limehouse attributes this success to his “Fix it First” strategy. “When I took office at SCDOT, I immediately shifted the agency’s focus to preserving and maintaining the large 41,000 mile state highway system that we already have. Limehouse added, “We cannot afford to expand our highway infrastructure further until we make sure that our existing highways are safe for the people of South Carolina and our visitors, and efficient enough to support economic development.” Limehouse noted that intersection improvements can save lives, but they are expensive projects. The average cost of one intersection improvement project ranges between $600,000 and $800,000.

Limehouse also had good news about rural roads which have the highest death rates in South Carolina. He noted that SCDOT continues to include paved shoulders in repaving or new construction projects. A recent SCDOT traffic study of over 1,000 sections of roads where paved shoulders have been added shows a decline in the crash rate of over 20%. Many of the state’s rural highways were built in the early 20th century with lanes too narrow for modern vehicles, particularly trucks. In addition, these roads were built without paved shoulders and sometimes no shoulders of any kind. “South Carolina has the second highest rural road death rate in the country,” said Limehouse. “But this study proves that providing paved shoulders can cut down the number of “run-off-the-road crashes,” he added.

South Carolina’s 41,000-mile highways system, which includes over 8,300 bridges, is the 4th largest state-maintained system in the nation. The state highway system includes 27,000 miles of secondary roads, most of which are in rural areas.  Secondary roads do not qualify for federal funding.