Tax increase for $600 million in road projects clears first hurdle

Why Is RIDE III Funding Needed?

Horry County Councilman Mark Lazarus explains what happens if voters don't want transportation funding project.
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Horry County Councilman Mark Lazarus explains what happens if voters don't want transportation funding project.

A penny sales tax to fund $600 million in road construction projects unanimously passed the first reading by the Horry County Council on Tuesday night.

The council must approve two more readings by early June before the measure can be placed on the ballot for voters to make the ultimate decision in the November general election of whether to raise the tax for eight years on prepared food, beverages, retail and accommodations.

The RIDE III program contains more than a dozen major projects plus paving plans for 100 miles of unpaved roads, including a significant widening of S.C. 501, Carolina Forest Boulevard, extending Palmetto Pointe Boulevard to S.C. 544, and widening S.C. 9 east of Loris.

Also included is funding to begin the Southern Evacuation Lifeline that will take years to finish, and funding to complete Carolina Bays Parkway to the North Carolina border.

The decision on which roads would be included was determined by a special tax commission chaired by Eddie Dyer, and council members are blocked under state law from making any changes to which roads are included.

The county council’s job now is to approve language for the ballot measure to raise the tax.

With only $10 million in funding for local roads expected to come from state coffers this year, and a backlog of $1.9 billion of needed road work, Dyer told the council that the expected revenues for the RIDE III project are an essential source of funding.

“We had to make some hard choices,” Dyer said of the final selection.

Carole vanSickler, president of the Carolina Forest Civic Association, questioned whether residents would support the third round of road construction projects when International Drive, which was funded in the previous RIDE II program, is stalled in a court battle with environmentalists.

Despite expected cost overruns due to the court delay, Lazarus said the funding remains available for International Drive construction once the litigation is resolved.

“We’re going to fight every day and fight hard, because the people have spoken and they want that road,” Lazarus said.

VanSickler also questioned why the county was funding construction on a state road, S.C. 501.

“We should never put a dollar into a state road, but if we didn’t do it, we wouldn’t have the roads we have today,” Lazarus said. “Hopefully, the state will get their act together and figure out how to fix some state roads.”

Details and locations of the proposed major projects can be viewed on the interactive map below, by clicking on the car icons.