Monday, December 15, 2008

Why is S.C. State's Transportation Center still unfinished?

By LEE TANT, T&D Staff Writer Sunday, December 14, 2008

South Carolina State University President Dr. George Cooper says completion of the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Research and Conference Center on campus is his highest priority.

“I want to get it done as soon as possible,” he said.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the U.S. House majority whip, said he thinks “very little” of the progress made thus far to get the project bearing his name off the ground. The multifaceted project had a ceremonial groundbreaking in October 2005.

To date, the Clyburn Center has not seen any vertical construction. But the site work -- which includes clearing land, roads and removing existing infrastructure -- for the project has recently been completed.

S.C. State was first granted a university transportation center (UTC) in 1998 when Congress passed sweeping national transportation legislation. It was later named in honor of Clyburn by the S.C. State Board of Trustees.

University officials say issues with meeting the state’s water-pressure standards, hiring a construction firm and completing a traffic study are halting construction.

They hope the first bricks will be laid soon.

Clyburn, an S.C. State alumnus, believes the brick and mortar for the project should have come together a long time ago.

“I just don’t believe, by any stretch of the imagination, that if any of the other publicly supported institutions had gotten this transportation center, it wouldn’t be up and running by now,” he said.

Clyburn doesn’t believe the funding he’s already secured for the center is in jeopardy, however he said he “will not seek additional funding for this project at South Carolina State until the administration commits sufficient time and professional attention to it.”

Cooper says the university’s ability to move forward with the project has been hampered by the state’s procurement regulations. He could not provide a definitive date as to when the Clyburn Center would be fully up and running.

Cooper said he is frustrated by the procurement process and doesn’t fully understand it or the reason for the holdup.

He said the university has $27 million to go forward with the first phase of the 33-acre project on the campus near Russell Street.

The Clyburn Center will house a research center, university offices, archives, executive guest suites and a conference center.

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