By Paul Gable
Infrastructure, especially roads, is on many minds as campaigning moves to the June 12, 2018 primary elections.
Some questionnaires being sent to candidates for various council seats include one or more questions about infrastructure planning.
Four years ago, Mark Lazarus promised voters he would “Fight for greater investment in new and current roads.”
In some of his early campaign statements this time around, Lazarus has pointed to the Ride III initiative and International Drive as personal successes.
This is misleading.
Council has little to do with the Ride projects. A prioritized list is presented from an independent committee to council on which it votes up or down for the entire list. Council may not make any deletions or additions. If council approves the list, and it always does, the citizens vote on a referendum question whether to adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund the Ride program.
As far as International Drive is concerned, if any current member of council deserves credit for keeping the issue moving toward completion it is Johnny Vaught. It was Vaught’s uncle, retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who initially addressed the need for International Drive and continued to push for the project from the early 2000’s until his death in September 2013. I can still hear Vaught addressing council several times on the importance of International Drive always ending with “Get it done.”
After Johnny Vaught was elected to council in November 2014, he picked up where his uncle left off in seeing the project to completion next month.
A recent Facebook video on the Lazarus campaign page touts on to greater infrastructure as it pictures the Farrow Parkway interchange with U.S. 17 Bypass.
This is an unfortunate choice of roads to feature as it depicts one of the more outrageous projects the county has undertaken.
The current bi-level improvements at the intersection were placed on the Ride II referendum because it was believed major changes were going to be needed there as planning for a new passenger terminal on the west side of the runway at Myrtle Beach International was ongoing. The intersection improvements were felt to be necessary to handle the traffic from the tens of thousands of new passengers that would be using the new terminal – both pipedreams.
The passenger terminal project was cancelled in 2007 because of its many deficiencies and continuously spiraling costs. Therefore the elaborate intersection improvements were no longer needed, but, being approved in the Ride II referendum the project had to go forward. Like the abandoned terminal project, the Farrow Parkway intersection was planned on land filled with gumbo and wound up costing nearly twice what it was projected to cost in the referendum for a project that really wasn’t needed.
In the meantime, roads like Hwy 90 have been ignored and it was not included with Ride III projects. Yet, International Drive will begin releasing traffic onto Hwy 90 after June 1, 2018 and council just approved zoning for an 860 unit RV park called Carolina Pines several miles up Hwy 90 from the International Drive intersection.
Hwy 90 is currently one of the most congested secondary roads in Horry County and will only get much worse as the traffic from these two projects become reality. But, no plans exist to widen it.
Hwy 905 is rapidly approaching the same congestion as Hwy 90. The connection of Gardner Lacy Road to International Drive to help inner-connectivity within Carolina Forest isn’t on the horizon although its necessity has been realized for at least 10 years.
Council has yet to do any real planning and try to become proactive on road and other infrastructure needs rather than continuing to be reactive when situations are so bad they can no longer be ignored.
It’s great to campaign on great infrastructure or to promise new road projects. It’s even better to deliver on those promises and not try to take credit for projects in which your respective part was minor.
However, it is campaign season and politics in Horry County is a “truth free zone.”