South Carolina - Roads & Highways

The early roads in South Carolina typically followed an existing Indian Trail, which began as a wild animal trail carved by deer and bison over many years. None of the early laws of South Carolina - from 1670 to 1685 - survive to this day. The first legislative Act known - An Act for Highways - was passed on May 26, 1682, but it has been lost to history. The first legislative Act about roads that survives - A Continual and Additional Act to an Additional Act for Making and Mending Highways - was passed in 1703, and this was an amendment to an earlier 1702 Act. A second Act was also passed in 1703 to create a new road.

Indian Trails

Two 1703 Acts on Roads
The first major road within South Carolina was built between Charles Town and Dorchester around 1696. The Charles Town to Georgetown Road was completed circa 1729 and was incorporated into the Kings Highway that stretched from Boston to Charles Town in 1735. As the population grew and moved further inland, other major roads were constructed, as shown in the link below on Colonial Roads.

Colonial Roads

Roads as of 1775 - Version 1 

Roads as of 1775 - Version 2
With statehood and the inevitable progress in transportation, fresh ideas were needed to get products from the farms to the markets. In 1808, the Legislature authorized the first Turnpike Road, a toll road from St. Andrews Parish to Rantoles Bridge. These privately owned roads continued for more than a hundred years, and provided much better transportation than the typical county road. In 1849, South Carolina began its brief experiment with Plank Roads that lasted until the American Civil War.

Turnpike Roads

Plank Roads

Prior to 1917, county governments were entirely responsible for building and maintaining roads within South Carolina. The coming of the automobile brought about the greatest "infrastructure project" ever implemented in the United States.

In 1915, the federal Bureau of Public Roads was created, which gave funds to each state for building, improving, and maintaining key "through roads." National uniform standards were established with uniform route numbers and signage. The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 and the promise of federal money to build highways served as the impetus for the creation of the South Carolina Highway Commission in 1917. However, World War I consumed all available resources and South Carolina could not launch its statewide road initiatives until the early 1920s.

In 1920, South Carolina had 3,037 miles of roadway - with only 26 miles paved.

In 1956, the U.S. Congress authorized the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Each state was to receive 90% federal aid, but the federal government decided which routes to build and when. For South Carolina, five primary interstate highways were authorized: I-20, I-26, I-77, I-85, and I-95, and as of today, there are over 850 miles of interstate highways.

In 1977, the Highway Commission was revamped and renamed to the Department of Highways and Public Transportation (SCDHPT). The current name, the Department of Transportation (SCDOT), was established in the State Government Restructuring Act of 1993. This Act split functions of the SCDHPT to establish the SCDOT and the Department of Public Safety. The SCDOT coordinates all state and federal programs relating to highways. The goal of the SCDOT is to provide adequate, safe, and efficient transportation services for the movement of people and goods.


Available Road Maps of SC

SC State Highways

U.S. Highways in SC

Interstate Highways in SC
South Carolina now includes more than 41,500 miles of paved highways, the fourth largest system in America.

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