How RIDE I and II have changed Horry County's roads

How RIDE I and II have changed Horry County's roads

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County voters will not only be voting for president next week, they'll also determine the future of roads here in the area through RIDE III.

"We know that in order to build some of the roads that we need here, we've been able to do it ourselves and tax ourselves to make the improvements," Horry County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said of RIDE II.

The RIDE program dates back 20 years. It began after a local sales tax referendum to improve roads failed. South Carolina Department of Transportation Commission Chairman Mike Wooten said it hadn't been sold to people well.

Plus, in a report he wrote for RIDE II, Wooten said the scope was too broad and it involved a 25-year term.

Horry County delegates then worked with the governor, SCDOT and locals to form the Road Improvement and Development Effort, or RIDE, Committee.

Wooten added they also enacted legislation to pay for RIDE I, creating the State Infrastructure Bank, which he said has since helped nearly every county in the state.

Approximately $1.1 billion paid for 23 projects, with $550 million from a 1.5 percent local hospitality fee, $225 million from state and federal sources, and $385 million from the State Infrastructure Bank.

The projects include: S.C. 22 and S.C. 707 improvements; the S.C. 544 widening; Carolina Bays Parkway (S.C. 31) from S.C. 9 to S.C. 544; S.C. 90 intersection improvements; U.S. 501 improvements; the Withers Swash Bridge replacement; U.S. 501 frontage roads and the George Bishop interchange; Robert Grissom Parkway; the Harrelson Boulevard widening; U.S. 17 and U.S. 501 interchange improvements; 10th Avenue North, Conway Perimeter Road phase I; S.C. 544-U.S. 501 to the Socastee Bridge, the widening of U.S. 17 from U.S. 501 to 29th Avenue; the Fantasy Harbour Bridge; and Robert Edge Parkway.

All of the projects have been completed.

The goal of RIDE I was to help tourists, while RIDE II was then planned in 2004 with locals in mind.

State and federal funding sources weren't available and the tourism tax couldn't be raised further. Wooten said polls showed positive support for a capital projects sales tax.

RIDE II passed as a capital projects sales tax referendum with more than 60 percent of the vote.

The projects on the referendum included: construction of an interchange at the back gate at the U.S. 17 Bypass and S.C. 707; the widening of S.C. 707 from Enterprise Road to the county line; intersection improvements at S.C. 544; the Aynor overpass; Glenns Bay Road widening and interchange at the U.S. 17 Bypass; International Drive paving; and the paving and resurfacing of county roads.

The tax started in May 2007 and ended in April 2014, so all of the funds have been collected.

The back gate and the Aynor overpass, as well as the paving and resurfacing of miles of roads, are finished.

However, the projects aren't all done. International Drive continues to face opposition in court from environmentalists. The same group caused a delay in the widening of S.C. 707.

"It did push some of the other projects back for that," Bourcier said. "We had quite a bit of rain last year and this year, which has pushed the time tables back a little bit as well as some issues with utility relocation."

Despite budgets changing 10 years after RIDE II was originally proposed due to increased costs, Bourcier said more money was collected from the penny sales tax than projected and it's expected to cover what's left.

Approximately $446 million was collected to pay for RIDE II.

For more information about RIDE II, click here.

The RIDE III referendum will be on the ballot Nov. 8.

For more information about RIDE III, click here.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.