HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – There is more than 600 miles of unpaved roads in Horry County. The maintenance work required to keep these roads drivable for cars includes scraping each one eight to twelve times each year.
Now the county is starting a pilot program that will be the first of its kind in the area, to figure out a better and more cost-efficient way to handle unpaved roads. The county says the program could benefit people in the area.
"This could bring a reduction in the number of times we have to scrape the road each year, and they'll also see smoother roads," said Horry County Public Works Director David Gilreath. "Easier roads to drive on, and it'll reduce the car maintenance."
Since residents started paying the penny road tax, the county has been working to pave more dirt roads. But it's a slow process -- paving is very expensive, and there are hundreds of miles left to go. Right now it costs up to $4,000 of taxpayer money every year to maintain just one mile of dirt road, while paving that same road can cost $500,000 a mile. That price difference means you could be dealing with dirt roads for a while, since the county has to save more pennies.
So public works is taking $100,000 out of the budget to start this pilot program. Those working with the program will test out different chemicals to figure out what keeps the road in the best shape the longest, at the lowest price.
Neighbors say if they can't have the roads fully paved, then they're glad the county is at least finding better ways to handle their dirt.
"If we're paying for it they should do anything possible to kind of take care of it," said Todd Blanton, who lives next to an unpaved road. "Paving would be great, but if they could do something until then, that would be awesome also."
The county is getting the program together now to test on a dozen roads, and the program will officially start July 1. If the department finds a solution, then they will expand the program throughout the county.