Widening I-26, body cameras, broadband



COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – South Carolina should spend its share of federal COVID-19 relief money on needs as diverse as statewide high-speed internet, body cameras for all police and the start of the widening of Interstate 26 between Charleston and Columbia, according to a special group formed by the governor.

Other suggestions for spending the nearly $ 3 billion controlled by the General Assembly included additional aid with education for children who have fallen behind in the pandemic, repairing water and sewer systems. aging, adding sand to beaches and improving the state’s computer systems.

“This is a unique opportunity, we believe,” Governor Henry McMaster told Accelerate SC on Tuesday at their last meeting, at least for now.

The last word will come from state lawmakers during a special session, probably at the end of September.

McMaster first created the group of government and business leaders to help understand how to reopen South Carolina after the closures when the pandemic began and brought them together to come up with ideas on how to spend the money federal relief.

“We’ve covered every nook and cranny of the state,” said James Bennett, member of Accelerate SC and vice president of First Citizen’s Bank.

In total, South Carolina will receive approximately $ 9 billion in federal aid. About two-thirds are sent directly to local governments or school districts or are already allocated. There is also $ 500 million from a federal settlement on the US government’s failure to meet deadlines to remove plutonium from the Savannah River site near Aiken.

Accelerate SC released 19 recommendations Tuesday worth about $ 2.1 billion. They suggested the state hang on to the rest of the money in case unforeseen problems arise by the deadline to spend it all in late 2024.

The group recommended donating $ 170 million to start a project of $ 1.8 billion or more to widen 70 miles (over 110 kilometers) of I-26 in rural areas between Charleston and Columbia.

The corridor experiences frequent traffic jams and slowdowns as trucks to and from the state’s busiest port mingle with traffic between South Carolina’s busiest cities.

“Making this investment now allows us to move this program forward six years,” said James Burns, Executive Director of Accelerate SC.

“When can this start? Someone in the crowd asked.

The group also recommended spending $ 490 million to bring high-speed internet to all parts of the state as soon as possible. More than half of South Carolina’s counties lost population according to the 2020 U.S. Census, and Internet access for virtual learning was a huge problem for rural school districts across the state, which also tend to be its poorest areas.

The Accelerate SC report suggests $ 400 million to spur upgrades to the state’s more than 600 water and sewer systems, which are on average nearly 50 years old. He also said the state should spend $ 73 million on cybersecurity for these factories.

There is a recommendation of $ 50 million for grants to pay for tutoring, after-school and summer programs for students who fell behind during the pandemic.

Report suggests spending $ 27 million to equip every police officer in South Carolina with a body camera, $ 47 million to promote tourism and renovate beaches, $ 10 million to stock protective gear for the next pandemic and $ 15 million to expand and renovate the state’s emergency operations center.

The group suggests spending $ 67 million on better computer systems for state agencies and $ 350 million to help pay for the expansion of the state port of Charleston so containers can move from ships to railcars without take the public road.

McMaster said he would review Accelerate SC’s suggestions early next month and present his own report to lawmakers, much like he does for the state budget every year.

The General Assembly plans to meet in extraordinary session at the end of September to consider the expenditure proposal.

A House panel examining how to spend the same money met on Tuesday alone, hearing from several agencies who want some of the relief money.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.


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