SC: Year 1: Richland's Penny Brings in $53 Million

July 24--COLUMBIA, S.C. -- In its first year, the Richland County transportation sales tax generated more than $53 million for projects that, for the most part, have not begun.

County Treasurer David Adams said Wednesday the total is $3 million more than projected and that collections went up each quarter, which could have signaled more spending by consumers or better reporting by retailers.

While the money is rolling in, the county's program has been slow to get out of the gate because of legal disputes over the vote and County Council's decision to re-bid the contract to manage the $1.07 billion program.

The money is being divided among specified improvements to roads, public transit and pedestrian amenities that include sidewalks, bike lanes and trails.

Now, the county's newly hired program development team is working to prioritize projects, not just roads but hundreds of projects to be done with the penny.

That's the last remaining hurdle to starting construction, said Rob Perry, the county's transportation director.

In October, County Council will approve the team's recommendations on which projects to do first. Then they'll be posted on the county's website "so everybody can see where their project is."

Roads (63 percent)

Two dozen dirt roads are in the process of being paved by private contractors hired by the county.

Preliminary survey work is being done on six major intersections that will be improved, but construction is six to nine months away, Perry said.

Public transit (29 percent)

Service -- the number of hours that buses are on the street -- has increased twice since voters passed the penny, and August will see another bump, said Bob Schneider, executive director of the COMET.

"This is the most service we've had in at least a decade," he said.

Two things that are hot buttons for residents -- shelters and big empty buses -- are being addressed.

Any day now, the RTA will roll out 11 new buses that carry just 18 passengers, while the first batch of shelters will also arrive any day now. They will be erected in the fall.

Lastly, riders anticipate the first major expansion in routes come August, including a push into Lower Richland.

Pedestrian (8 percent)

No headway on pedestrian improvements.

The county's development team will prioritize 87 bikeways, 56 sidewalks and 15 trail projects, Perry said.

Copyright 2014 - The State (Columbia, S.C.)