Congestion along areas such as S.C. 707, S.C. 544, and U.S. 501 is projected to continue through 2035 and development along S.C. 90 and Highway 57 will add more transportation concerns, according to Horry County planning officials and regional transportation officials.
The RIDE III committee charged with devising the next major road program met Thursday at the Wall College of Business Administration on the Coastal Carolina University campus. Members heard from David Schwerd, principal planner for Horry County, who said conceptual plans, planned development districts and average normal densities show areas that committee members should consider when mapping out road project priorities.
“If you look at the development pattern over a period of time, you’ll see that those migrated west from the city of Myrtle Beach,” Schwerd said. “The first wave now is Burgess, Carolina Forest and Forestbrook. The next wave you really see it pushing back. The next step beyond that is Highway 90 out to [Highway] 57. It’s basically a ring around the cities as they move [inland].”
The RIDE III committee is aiming to collect upwards of $550 million to address high-traffic areas. This committee will pass its findings and recommendations on to a six-person commission made up of three members from the Horry County League of Cities and three members appointed by the Horry County Council. That commission’s recommendation would then go to the full County Council for approval before it is brought to voters for another one-cent sales tax referendum.
In the mid-1990s, Horry County began its first RIDE, or Road Improvement and Development Effort, program. It was instrumental in creating what is now the State Infrastructure Bank, which is used largely to assist in funding major road projects throughout the state. S.C. 22 and S.C. 31 were among the initial RIDE projects, funded by local money through a 1.5 percent hospitality fee countywide and state funding.
In 2006, nearly 62 percent of voters approved a one-cent sales tax to fund a $425.3 million RIDE II program to fix roads, such as the back gate bridge at S.C. 707 and U.S. 17 Bypass, the widening of S.C. 707 and many more. The county is at the tail end of RIDE II, which, once finished, will have completed 15 road projects totaling $425 million.
Horry County collected about $446 million in RIDE II — about $21 million more than what was needed. County officials have said the surplus will be used for roads, but cannot roll over into RIDE III efforts.
Research for the RIDE II project resulted in 104 road projects being identified as areas of need.
Both the Horry County Council and the Horry County League of Cities selected their members for the advisory committee that will examine road projects for RIDE III, and the group is expected to start with the projects identified, but not addressed, in RIDE II.
Mark Hoeweler, assistant executive director of the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, showed a time lapse of growth and traffic count maps that showed the connection of S.C 31 to S.C. 707 is still projected to be congested in 2035. He said other areas of concern will continue to be U.S. 501 to Conway from the Myrtle Beach area and S.C 544 between U.S. 17 Business and U.S. 17 Bypass.
He said 14 intersections within the GSATS coverage area, which, for this study, ranges from Georgetown to Horry counties, are in the top 100 congested intersections in the state.
Committee members are currently gathering ideas for road projects and is scheduled to bring its final list to the commission by May.
Mike Barbee, project manager with SCDOT, told the committee that funding must come from local sources like a sales tax program. He said the state will experience a $29.5 billion funding gap between road needs and available funding at the state level.
“There is a wide gulf between what people expect and what the DOT can deliver,” Barbee said. “We’re operating on a 1987 budget... we’re at a critical junction.
“They don’t call Horry County the independent republic for nothing... Local county funding is the wave of the future.”
Bo Ives, a committee member from the Carolina Forest area, said with new roads comes new responsibilities.
“I know we need to be going over funding these new roads, but we also have to be planning for the maintenance of these new roads at the same time,” Ives said.