By Paul Gable
The Carolina Forest Civic Association members heard about the RIDE IV road program from Wayne Gray, Chairman of the RIDE IV Advisory Committee, during the association’s regular meeting Wednesday evening.
After Gray presented an overview of the RIDE IV planning process, one of the association members asked a key question. “Why does county council continue to approve all these rezonings when the county is already so far behind on roads?” the questioner asked.
The question strikes at the heart of the matter facing Horry County, as well as the need for not only the RIDE IV program, but also future road construction in the county.
According to information provided by Gray, Horry County, at its current state of development, needs an estimated $4 billion of new road construction to service the needs of county residents and visitors to the Grand Strand.
The 18 member RIDE IV committee, 12 appointed by county council and six appointed by the League of Cities, submitted three road project recommendations each for consideration by the committee. With some projects being recommended by more than one member, a total of 35 new road projects are currently under consideration by the committee for inclusion in the RIDE IV plan.
According to Gray, those 35 projects would require approximately $2.5 – $3 billion to complete at current costs. The projects are currently undergoing review by county staff and SCDOT officials to determine more specific costs for each project. Once that process is completed next month, the committee will apply a scoring process to rank the projects in order of start of construction dates.
Gray told the meeting current state law enabling capital projects one-cent sales tax collection to pay for these types of projects would raise approximately $840 million over the seven-year period currently allowed for collection. This means approximately one-quarter to one-third of the projects currently under consideration will ultimately be put before the voters in a November 2024 referendum for approval of the projects and funding.
Carolina Forest residents are most interested in extending Gardner Lacy Road to International Drive to provide another point of ingress and egress to the ever growing Carolina Forest area. Another project of considerable interest is the widening of Hwy 90 with the increasing traffic new development has caused on that road.
Gray said one never before discussed project, which has gathered the interest of a number of committee members, is the Lake Busbee southern bypass of Conway, which has gained considerable interest since the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in 2018.
Much is left to do in the RIDE IV process. The advisory committee expects to complete its work by this summer. When this initial work is completed, the advisory committee will be disbanded and a six member RIDE IV tax commission will be established with three members appointed by county council and one member from each of the three largest cities in the county – Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway.
The commission will be conducting public hearings throughout the county to get citizen input on the proposed projects. In the spring of 2024, the commission will make final recommendations to county council on the projects to be included in the RIDE IV program. Council takes an up or down vote on the recommended project list. If the list is approved by council, the voters, in a referendum question on the November 2024 general election ballot, will have the final say on whether a one-cent sales tax will be imposed for a period of seven years to pay for the approved projects.