By Paul Gable
The east/west divide in Horry County is evidently creeping into discussions about project priorities by the Ride III Committee.
This was as inevitable as it is unhelpful.
Western area representatives on the committee appear to be looking for another fixed percentage of Ride III funds to be allotted to paving dirt roads.
Ride II allotted approximately 25 percent of the total funds available to paving dirt roads in the rural areas of the county. This amount was on top of the funds available through the county’s comprehensive road plan which splits approximately 80 percent to paving dirt roads and 20 percent to maintenance on existing paved roads.
The county’s road plan receives the $30 road fee charged on all vehicles registered in the county. One hundred percent of that fee collected on vehicles registered in unincorporated areas of the county goes into the comprehensive road plan pot as well as 15 percent of the fee collected on vehicles registered in incorporated cities and towns in the county.
Eighty-five percent of the road fee collected on vehicles registered in the incorporated areas goes back to the respective municipalities where the vehicles are registered.
The Ride III committee should be looking first and foremost at providing greater inner-connectivity among existing communities (Carolina Forest comes to mind first, but not exclusively) so that locals have the means to move around the county without all traffic feeding into main roads such as U.S. 501.
New major roads, such as I-73 or the SELL road, do not need to be included at all. Neither does the plan to redirect U.S. 501 in Myrtle Beach.
Those types of projects would do nothing to address the greatest needs of the county today.
Neither, frankly, does the inclusion of paving existing dirt roads.
It must be kept in mind that Ride III, if it passes, may be the last opportunity to address the needs of the county for inner-connectivity.
Depending on what happens in Columbia, (I strongly expect the state to turn road maintenance needs back to the counties in some form) a Ride IV plan, if one were ever to be attempted, may require most of the funds collected to go toward maintenance on existing roads.