HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Southern Evacuation Lifeline is one step closer to getting on the ballot.
Last week, the Horry County Sales Tax Commission approved the $25,000,000 set aside by Ride III for the proposed highway.
Better known as the SELL Project, the Southern Evacuation Lifeline has been up in the air for more than a decade. The 22-mile-long proposed highway would connect Highway 22 with the U.S. 17 Bypass on the south strand.
The idea is to provide an evacuation route other than U.S. 501 for the many homeowners south of Myrtle Beach.
Ride III's advisory board set aside $25 million to get the project started, and now county council gets to decide if it will be on the ballot in November.
"The Ride III committee and the Sales Tax Commission would have been very irresponsible if we didn't appropriate something for the Southern Evacuation Lifeline," said Ride III Chairman Eddie Dyer. "People on the south end of the beach need a way to get out of here if there's a catastrophe of any sort."
Dyer says he believes the project will get on the ballot and voters will approve it.
He says they'll start collecting the funds in May 2017 so the project can get started. The money wouldn't fund the construction of the road, but instead, initial efforts like environmental surveys, engineering, and buying land around the Waccamaw River.
The rest of the money for road construction will have to come from state and federal funds.
South Carolina Department of Transportation Chairman Mike Wooten is also hopeful for the project, saying it will help cut down on the growing traffic problems on U.S. 501.
"501 at the level of service F- right now," Wooten explained. "By 2035, if I-73 is not built, it'll be the level of service, FFF, which means it'll be at gridlock most of the day."
Wooten said large amounts of visitors and traffic are inevitable for the area, but it's important to keep it under control.
He added I-73 construction would hopefully start first, and SELL would follow.
Construction of the potential highway would take place in the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Dyer said he expects some resistance over environmental concerns.