S.C. State University to Get $80 Million Transportation Research Center

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Amid questions about how some of the initial grant money was spent, South Carolina State University officials hope to begin construction soon on the first phase of a transportation research center announced 12 years ago.

Little has been done at the proposed $80 million James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center, announced in 1998 to conduct research and train workers in the transportation industry, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Monday.

The university had $23.3 million in grants from the U.S. Transportation Department originally, but was not able to get the grant renewed in 2006. A federal audit on one of those grants, the National Summer Transportation Institute, found financial records were confusing and accountants could not tell where money went.

Joseph Pearman, assistant vice president for business and finance, said the university put into effect a new financial recording system a few years ago. He said it is hard to access records from the old system, and he can’t explain how much of the money was spent and whether any is left.

The newspaper reported programs at the school are surviving with leftover grants.

School officials, however, note two accomplishments of the program.

The university has a transportation master’s degree program where 17 students were enrolled this past year and from which 26 have graduated.

An Environmental Policy Institute, housed under the auspices of the transportation center, involves research on transporting radioactive material.

University officials hope to begin construction soon on the first phase of a planned $80 million complex to be named in honor of James E. Clyburn, the U.S. House Majority Whip and a graduate of the historically Black university. 

“The new building is the ammunition we need” to attract more grants and programs, said George Cooper, who assumed duties as president of the university last year. He said that will likely happen when the economy improves.

Initially, the complex calls for a library to archive Clyburn’s papers and a garage to service the bus fleet for the Santee Wateree Regional Transportation Authority.

The archive also would house transportation research and the garage will double as a research facility for large trucks, the school said.