Coast RTA seeks funding to expand bus fleet, build new operations center
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A multi-million dollar project that could help alleviate traffic for some of Horry County’s busiest roads may not even need construction.
Coast RTA says its idea is to increase its fleet of buses and make a further investment into public transportation. Currently, less than 20 Coast RTA buses operate throughout Horry County transporting nearly 2,000 passengers a day.
Finding funding for that project, however, has not been an easy task.
“I’m just trying to turn over every rock I can,” said Coast RTA General Manager Brian Piascik.
Coast RTA has been providing transportation services in Horry County since 1980, but much has changed in 40 years. The biggest change being the county’s population, jumping from 100,000 to 365,000.
Piascik said the average transit systems with a population like Horry County typically run 50 buses. As of Friday, Coast RTA only has 19.
He added that it all comes down to a lack of state and federal funding.
“In 2015, we were getting $1.5 million,” said Piascik. “Even with all this growth, we’re around $2.1 million and our budget is $8 million, so that’s like 25%.”
Piascik recently went before the Horry County RIDE IV Committee last month, hoping to secure new funding for buses and an updated maintenance and operations facility in Myrtle Beach.
However, the committee said it wasn’t sure if the funds could go toward anything other than roads.
Horry County attorney Arrigo Carotti advised the committee against it, saying it was too risky.
“I can’t find any of the projects listed that are allowable under that law that you could pigeonhole funding of a regional transportation authority,” said Carotti during the meeting. “If there are any options floating out there, I’d question their interest. My interest is to protect the county.”
Committee members said they still plan to help Coast RTA get the funding they need, which may have to come from federal grants.
“We had a good meeting in Columbia and I think we’ve got some good funding,” said Mark Lazurus, a member of the committee.
Piascik said he knew getting funding from RIDE IV was going to be al long shot. He spent most of the past year looking for ways to generate more funding and keep Coast RTA operational.
While there is federal funding available, it would only be able to cover 80% of the proposed project. The rest would be left to local dollars.
“We do have some funding coming from the state, but what I’m looking for is to find local dollars,” said Piascik. “And RIDE IV would have qualified for that.”
Piascik explained that if they’re able to secure funding from the federal grant, then a new operations and maintenance facility could open in Myrtle Beach within the next five years.
That, in turn, would help them secure future funding to expand Coast RTA’s bus fleet.
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