By Paul Gable
As Horry County Council prepares to select the six-member Ride III commission, a cautionary note on project selection is appropriate.
The commission will be charged with developing the final list of projects and the order in which they are to be completed. That list will be sent to Horry County Council for an up or down vote.
If the list passes council vote, it will be submitted to voters in the form of a referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot.
The preliminary list of 31 projects compiled by a 17-member Ride III committee will be taken under consideration by the commission, but it may also add projects it desires.
The committee list of 31 projects is estimated to have a total cost $1.9 billion. The Ride III sales tax referendum, if passed, is expected to generate approximately $530 million in sales tax revenue. You can see there is still much work to be done.
And that’s why the work must be done carefully.
Included in the committee list are some very good projects. However, at least three projects in the list have the potential to blow up Ride III projects completely.
Those three are the Southern Evacuation Lifeline (SELL) which was slated for $25 million by the committee for feasibility studies and right of way property acquisitions, the extension of SC 31 to the North Carolina border and the realignment of US 501 in Myrtle Beach.
Anyone who is at all knowledgeable about the delays being caused by the environmentalists on the International Drive project should know that the International Drive delays will seem like kindergarten class compared to a PhD dissertation on environmental roadblocks that will be presented with the proposed SELL road.
If you think the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve gives reason to raise the dander of environmental groups, just wait until the pristine Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge becomes the center of the target.
The same is true to a somewhat lesser degree with the northern expansion of SC 31.
The realignment of US 501 will not cause environmental problems, but there are several preservationist groups in the city who do not want to see the historic center of Myrtle Beach radically changed for a road that is not really needed.
Horry County Council is scheduled to vote on the membership of the commission at its August 18, 2015 regular meeting.
It must be emphasized that those six individuals must be chosen carefully so that projects that do not have a chance of starting on time and will delay every project lower on the list are not included.
If council had anticipated the difficulties that International Drive brought to Ride II, thankfully it was way down on the list, it is safe to say the project wouldn’t have been included.
It is already possible to imagine major difficulties with the three projects mentioned above. There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.