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Horry County Council looks to use American Rescue Plan money to fund Highway 90 improvements

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:19 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The Horry County Council may have found a way to afford improvements along a crowded Highway 90.

It came from an unexpected funding source: the American Rescue Plan.

While not initially slated for that, the American Rescue Plan could make a big difference for the roadway, but there are still some hurdles to overcome.

“It gives us a little more latitude to select those projects that we see as priorities within our community,” said Horry County administrator Barry Spivey during Tuesday night’s county council meeting.

Horry County received $68.8 million from the American Rescue Plan, federal aid geared toward helping communities recover from the pandemic.

The county’s proposed plan for spending that money included coronavirus impacts, like improving cyber security, remote work capabilities and employee bonuses.

Officials say $26 million of the funds would go toward road projects.

“Road projects like Highway 90?” asked District 3 Councilman Dennis DiSabato.

County staff says the money could go toward Highway 90 because it can cover projects that promote recovery for residents and businesses.

Although $68.8 million is a good chunk of change, it won’t cover the estimated $500 million needed to improve Highway 90, specifically a lane widening project.

But DiSabato thinks it could be a start.

“I certainly think we can put more than $25 million toward Highway 90,” said DiSabato. “I think we may need to take a closer look at how we’re deploying some of these resources and maybe allocate more of this money toward that project because it’s so important.”

There is a catch, however, as the American Rescue Plan funds need to be spent by 2026.

“If you allocate the funds today to get through design, right-of-way, permitting and construction, you couldn’t do that in that timeframe, period,” said a county engineer.

DiSabato thinks they could find a way to spend $60 million in that time, even if a lot is just on right-of-way purchases.

Councilman Johnny Vaught echoed that it could address fixing the three or four biggest areas of need where the flooding is the worst.

“You certainly can get a meaningful portion of this road not just designed, but completed within a six-year period,” said DiSabato.

Council approved employee bonuses and cybersecurity improvements, but sent the rest back to administration for review.

They also increased the bonuses for first responders to $2,500, while other government employees will get $1,500. They should see those this Friday.

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