SCDOT Secretary Justin Powell | This Week in South Carolina

For a special report of This Week in South Carolina, SC Department of Transportation Secretary joins host Gavin Jackson to discuss the latest infrastructure projects in the state - from interstates to bridges to rural roads.

Infrastructure Initiatives in South Carolina with Justin Powell  

Powell first shares that recent investments towards infrastructure from the General Assembly, particularly the 2017 SC Roads Bill, have resulted in a "dramatic increase" in development across the state. He highlighted numerous projects such as bridges, paving, and interstate improvements; and shared that South Carolina currently has over $6 billion allocated to infrastructure construction. Powell credited the execution of the SCDOT's ten-year development plan to funding sources, once again highlighting initiatives, like the 12-cent gas tax increase, established by the 2017 Roads Bill. He emphasized that as South Carolina continues to grow rapidly, infrastructure must keep pace to confront congestion.  

Discussing funding, Powell shared that the current financial state for infrastructure initiatives is well-positioned, particularly for safety and pavement projects. However, he hopes to secure additional funding through discussions with the General Assembly for bridge maintenance, highlighting that of the 8,400 bridges in the state, 2,400 are over 60 years old.  

Powell also shared that SCDOT is on track with their current ten-year plan, noting increases to their initial goals and highlighting progress in bridge construction and paving projects. He mentioned that development of the next ten-year plan, the Momentum 2050 plan, is underway. Powell shared that the development of this new plan involves closely monitoring trends within the state, such as population growth and changing technology, noting electric cars. The plan also aims to incorporate public opinion through a survey available at  

Regarding road paving in the state, Powell highlighted the sheer size of South Carolina's interstate system, noting that it is the fourth largest in the nation. He explained that prioritizing core maintenance is a key area of focus. 

Delving into the interstate improvement projects in the state, Powell noted improvements such as the widening of I-26 and I-85, alongside improvements to Malfunction Junction—the interchange between I-20 and I-26—known as the Carolina Crossroads project. Additionally, he also shared plans for the widening of I-95.  

Bridges in South Carolina 

On the topic of bridge reliability, Powell explained the thorough process of bridge inspection in the state, sharing that SCDOT abides by the federal standard of inspecting bridges every two years. Powell notes that if there is a safety concern, bridges will be shut down immediately. The obstacles with state bridges, according to Powell, are the previously mentioned 2,400 bridges over 60 years old, and the 600+ bridges in the state that cannot support loads such as fire trucks and school buses. Powell emphasized that tackling bridge maintenance in the state is a key area of focus for him during his tenure as Secretary. Jackson and Powell visited the bridge over the Wateree River on I-20, which has been under construction since December 2023 due to the deck bed slipping six inches. Powell emphasized the importance of bridges to South Carolina citizens' daily lives and commutes, as well as to overall state commerce. He noted that since I-20 is one of the least traveled interstates in South Carolina, it was fortunate that an accident like this did not occur on a much busier one, such as I-85.  

Road Safety in South Carolina  

Powell and Jackson also visited the sidewalk construction on South Main Street in Columbia to discuss road safety. Powell noted that South Carolina has one of the highest road fatality rates in the country and explained that the construction on South Main is part of efforts to improve pedestrian safety on the University of South Carolina campus, including adding wider sidewalks and bike lanes. He emphasized that these improvements enhance safety for both pedestrians and vehicles. Powell also shared that through collaboration with local governments, SCDOT identifies project areas throughout the state to make safety improvements for drivers, pedestrians, and bikers. 

Shifting to rural areas, Powell mentioned that the 2017 Roads Bill required SCDOT to invest $50 million in rural road safety, noting that South Carolina has the worst rural road fatality rate in the nation. While acknowledging that SCDOT cannot solve issues like drunk driving or speeding, he highlighted engineering solutions as preventative measures, such as rumble strips and wider shoulders. He shared that since these investments, there has been a 20% reduction in such incidents. 

Jackson mentioned recent news about a freighter incident that temporarily closed the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, SC. Powell explained that although the incident was unfortunate, all parties involved— including the pilot, Coast Guard, and law enforcement— responded appropriately. He assured that the bridge is designed to accommodate major freighters like the one involved in the incident.  

In closing, Powell advised those curious about improvements in their areas to use SCDOT’s Project Viewer Application to track ongoing projects. For more infrastructure updates, Jackson hosts the SC Lede Podcast at 


This Week in South Carolina highlights one topic each week with political leaders, newsmakers and policy makers in our state. Gavin Jackson, South Carolina ETV's news and public affairs reporter, hosts the weekly public affairs program.