Local

Priorities set, public to weigh in on RIDE III road projects

U.S. 501 tops the priority list of road projects included in the RIDE III ballot proposal.
U.S. 501 tops the priority list of road projects included in the RIDE III ballot proposal. The Sun News file photo

Horry County residents will get their first chance next week to weigh in on road projects chosen for the RIDE III proposal that would generate a construction boom across Horry County beginning with the widening of U.S. 501.

The RIDE III Sales Tax Commission tasked with compiling the projects voted unanimously to prioritize 20 projects, which will be constructed as the funding from a one cent sales rolls into county coffers, provided that tax is approved by voters in the fall.

The tax is expected to raise nearly $592 million over eight years, and officials estimate it would cover the cost of all proposed projects.

Should the national economy takes a nosedive or a natural disaster such as a hurricane strike the Grand Strand coast reducing the money collected from tourists, construction could stall for roads given a low priority.

In addition to the U.S. 501 project, other road construction topping the list includes widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard, extending Palmetto Pointe Boulevard to S.C. 544, and widening S.C. 9 east of Loris.

Lower priorities include the Southern Evacuation Lifeline, which will take years of preparation to complete environmental studies and purchase needed land for the road’s path. The last priority is construction of S.C. 31 to the North Carolina state line, because of the sheer complexity of the project.

Although prioritized, all projects would begin simultaneously with engineering work and permitting, then the actual construction would commence in order, staggered so that it can be paid for as the tax dollars are collected.

“We just can’t complete a project at the bottom of the list and not do one that’s above that,” said Eddie Dyer, commission chairman. “When we get to construction on one of the lower projects, we may push it out until we finish the one that’s above it to make sure we have enough money to do it. Then, with whatever money’s left, we’ll pay for that one.

We think there’s enough money to do all the projects, or we wouldn’t have recommended them.

Eddie Dyer, RIDE III Sales Tax Commission chairman

“We think there’s enough money to do all the projects, or we wouldn’t have recommended them,” Dyer said.

The special tax commission members are holding the seven public input sessions to explain the individual projects, not to advocate for the ballot question on raising sales taxes.

Dyer noted that with the strong voter interest experienced during the presidential primaries in Horry County, they expect significant turnout on the November ballot question, which will coincide with the presidential general election.

If voters reject the sales tax increase, Dyer said “plan B” is for the county to make due with an estimated $10 million expected from state coffers for road repairs and construction.

If passed, the tax will go into effect in May 2017 for eight years on all retail sales, prepared food, beverages and lodging rentals, but groceries will be exempt.

The public meeting schedule is as follows:

▪  Wednesday at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

▪  Thursday at the James R. Frazier Community Center on Bucksport Road in Conway from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.

March 22 at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

▪  March 24 at Conway City Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

▪  March 29 at Surfside Beach Town Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

▪  March 31 at North Myrtle Beach City Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The final meeting to review the plan is set for April 4 at the Academy for Technology & Academics community room in Conway.

Proposed Construction projects listed by priority:

U.S. 501 improvements

Description: Project calls for six-lane widening from S.C. 31 to S.C. 544 interchange. It also includes improving parallel roads. Postal Way would be extended east to Waccamaw Pines. Additionally, Middle Ridge Drive would be extended in both directions: east to West Perry Road and west to Singleton Ridge Road. Intersection improvements would be included as well.

Cost: $50 million

Paving dirt roads

Description: The first round would pave 25 miles of county dirt roads, based on a separate list of priorities provided by county staff to the commission.

Cost: $15 million

Carolina Forest Boulevard widening

Description: Project would widen road to four lanes and add traffic lights along nearly five miles of Carolina Forest’s main artery, and construct a multi-use trail.

Cost: $54.7 million

Palmetto Pointe Boulevard extension

Description: Extend road nearly one mile to S.C. 544, include sidewalks and wider travel lanes.

Cost: $7.5 million.

S.C. 9 East improvements in Loris

Description: Expand road to four lanes from the point where the highway narrows to Highway 66 — about 1.2 miles. Project also includes sidewalks.

Cost: $21.7 million

Resurfacing roads

Description: Resurfacing 33 miles of roads. Officials said the repaving money could be spent on local or state roads.

Cost: $5 million

U.S. 701 North widening

Description: Four-mile project would widen U.S. 701 North from S.C. 319 to S.C. 22, and include sidewalks and wider travel lanes.

Cost: $65.1 million

Fred Nash Boulevard

Description: Build a new road to connect with Harrelson Boulevard.

Cost: $19.3 million

South Strand intersection enhancements

Description: Improvements to U.S. 17 Business intersections at Inlet Square Drive, Atlantic Avenue and the Garden City Connector.

Cost: $19.8 million

Forestbrook Road widening

Description: Project would cover 4.5 miles to widen road and add turn lanes to the busy connector road from U.S. 501 to Dick Pond Road. It includes sidewalks and bike paths.

Cost: $89.1 million

Paving dirt roads

Description: Second round of dirt road paving across 25 miles

Cost: $15 million

Resurfacing roads

Description: Second round of resurfacing 33 miles of roads

Cost: $5 million

U.S. 501 realignment from Broadway Street to Seventh Avenue North

Description: Located in Myrtle Beach, this project would reroute 501 at the intersection with Broadway Street by connecting the major thoroughfare with Seventh Avenue North.

Cost: $13.9 million

U.S. 701 Widening north of Loris

Description: Widen the highway from Dogwood Street to S.C. 9 interchange, include turning lanes, sidewalks and bike paths.

Cost: $7.5 million

Conway perimeter road

Description: Nearly two miles long, this road would be built along with a multi-use trail from U.S. 378 to U.S. 701 South.

Cost: $18.4 million

Paving dirt roads

Description: Round three would pave 25 miles of dirt roads.

Cost: $15 million

Resurfacing roads

Description: Round three would resurface 34 miles of roads.

Cost: $5 million

Paving dirt roads

Description: the final round of dirt roads paved, 25 miles.

Cost: $15 million

Southern Evacuation Lifeline (SELL)

Description: RIDE III money would not pay for completing this 27-mile project, which is estimated to cost about $650 million and would create a link between the South Strand and the inland. This funding would pay for environmental studies and right of way land purchased near the Waccamaw River.

Cost: $25 million

S.C. 31 extension to North Carolina

Description: The nearly five-mile extension would take S.C. 31 to the North Carolina border.

Cost: $125 million

Total cost of RIDE III projects: $592 million

Audrey Hudson 843-444-1765; Twitter @AudreyHudson

  Comments