By Paul Gable
With the RIDE II capital project sales tax set to expire in May 2014, there does not appear to be enough support among Horry County Council members to immediately push for a RIDE III program.
This is a good idea.
For those of you who may not remember, or not have lived in Horry County in 2006, the process of establishing projects to be funded by a one cent local option sales tax (that’s what a capital project sales tax is) is not one that should be rushed.
Consideration of the RIDE II tax included both a committee and commission of citizens appointed by county council, several opportunities for public comment, an up or down vote by county council to put the final list of projects to the public by referendum and, finally, public approval of the referendum.
The initial committee recommended using most of the money that would come from the tax be used to construct overpasses on U.S. 501 eliminating most of the traffic lights between Conway and Myrtle Beach on that heavily used highway.
The commission took over and changed the list of projects completely, most would say for entirely political reasons, to the ones that are presently funded by RIDE II.
What has proved to be the single most expensive project in RIDE II – the graded intersection at the intersection of Hwy 707 and U.S. 17 Bypass (the Backgate of the former air force base) – was included to eliminate expected traffic jams of all the passengers who would be coming out of the new West Side airport terminal.
Of course, the West Side terminal project was ultimately voted down, seriously reducing the need for the interchange improvements. That money would have been better spent in the Carolina Forest area, but politics trumped good sense.
The impetus for a quick RIDE III vote seems to be long term funding for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (something that would require a change in the current capital project sales tax law by the S.C. General Assembly) and funding for I-73.
Neither of those issues are the best use of RIDE III funds, in my opinion. We would be better served by focusing most of the proceeds of a new capital projects sales tax, if ultimately approved, in the Carolina Forest area and reducing the logjam of traffic on U.S. 501.
I’m happy to see county council appears to be willing to take its time and get the projects that will provide the most use to the county’s citizens who will pay the bulk of the tax.