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Rep. R.J. May spends day working alongside SCDOT crew to get a firsthand look at road work issues

South Congaree, SC 11/18/2021 (Paul Kirby) – Representative R.J. May (Dist. 88) spent his day Wednesday working alongside an SCDOT crew to see firsthand the challenges that those state employees face daily. For those of you who think this was political grandstanding it was not. May donned work boots, a hardhat, and a safety vest and put his back into patching potholes and doing other types of road maintenance matching shovel for shovel the hardworking DOT employees that do this type of work every day.

His morning started on Ramblin Road patching potholes. This road has been crumbling for years and now seems to be more patches than asphalt. May had said during a previous interview that he drives that road daily and feels and sees the need for a permanent solution with every jarring rut and hole he crosses. This road is but one of hundreds in the state that are in this condition so he began to do some background into how these roads got to be in that condition and what he feels it will take to straighten them out. That in turn brought him to this fact finding day of working alongside the DOT crew members.

When asked what it would take to actually fix the roads like Ramblin in South Congaree May said, “We must evaluate two separate issues when attempting to make DOT more effective and efficient - structural changes to the entire department and practical changes dealing with maintenance and repairs.” He continued by explaining, “Structurally, voters can't hold any one person accountable for our failing infrastructure and crumbling roads. There are too many boards and commissions and diffused decision making. By placing the roads system solely under the governor, citizens, through their votes, could hold him or her accountable for bad funding decisions and poor road quality. Simply put, we must eliminate the layers of bureaucracy between We, The People and those who make road funding decisions.”

He went further saying, “Practically speaking, I ride the same roads everyone else does. In my 20-year-old truck, I feel the crumbling asphalt, poor patch jobs, and every jaw jarring pothole there is. It’s unacceptable. How do we fix it? That's one of the main reasons I wanted to spend the day with a DOT crew, the real, everyday employees. Yesterday (Wednesday, November 17), I learned that Lexington County’s maintenance operation needed to combine two area crews into one due to staffing shortages. When people are searching for jobs, they don't just apply to the DOT, they are also applying for private sector jobs at the same time. By the time the DOT’s staff gets back to them for an interview, they've had other offers and have been working for weeks. So, how can we shorten the time from application to hire?” Since he just recently learned of this issue, May said he hadn’t yet seen or heard a plan to correct this problem. He did continued by saying that he fully realizes failures of this type on the administrative side of the DOT must be corrected quickly to overcome staffing shortages and other problems with the day-to-day operations at the SCDOT.

As every motorist knows, patch jobs and pothole filling fail quickly. May said that he learned that weather certainly plays a role in that problem, but another reason might be the DOT’s extensive use a cold mix instead of a hot mix asphalt. “Do we need to cut out, square off, and use hot mix on all repairs? I don't know the answer to that yet but that's why I'll keep going out with DOT and speaking with other legislators across the US on what their best practices are.”

After patching potholes, cleaning ditches for drainage, and putting a full day in working alongside some of South Carolina’s hardworking DOT on the street employees, May said he can guarantee that our problem is NOT a funding. “The State of SC has the money. In fact, the State has too much of our money. If the legislature quit funding pork projects - like $5 million to repair an opera house or $1.5 million for an amphitheater - we could fund our roads and repeal the gas tax.”

Representative May said after his experience that he was grateful to the crew he worked with. He said he learned a great deal and plans to continue to spend more of his free time on these fact-finding missions. That way, he’ll have firsthand knowledge of the issues state employees face every day and be able to convey those to other members of the SC State’s Legislature.


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