Horry County bills itself as “The Independent Republic” and that is certainly the case when it comes to building roads.
If left up to the state, visitors and locals would still be getting to the beach on two-lane roads.
But, on three separate occasions, people in Horry County have voted to assess an extra penny of sales tax to build highway infrastructure. The money has made it possible to construct major highways and road improvements.
RIDE III was approved in 2016 by Horry County voters, by a 69.1 to 30.9 percent margin.
The tax went into effect on May 1, 2017, and will expire on April 30, 2025.
According to the county’s website, RIDE III increased the level of sales tax in Horry County an additional penny on all retail sales, accommodations and prepared food/ beverage.
Groceries (unprepared food) are exempt from the sales tax.
Horry County is slated to receive $592 million over the eight-year life of the one-cent sales tax.
Earlier this week, I used the Horry County website to check on the status of RIDE III and was pleased to see that good progress has been made.
For example, the essential widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard is well underway and could be completed in a few more months. Bike paths on either side of the highway enhance this project.
Five other big projects have made it to the land acquisition stage, according to the RIDE III dashboard:
n The $21.7 million widening of S.C. 9 east of Loris;
n the $65 million U.S. 701 widening north of Conway to S.C. 22;
n the $13.9 million realignment of Broadway Street in Myrtle Beach;
n the $7.5 million widening of U.S. 701 north of Loris to S.C. 9;
n and, the $50 million in improvements to U.S. 501 are all in the land acquisition stage.
About 100 miles of dirt roads are scheduled to be paved and the first phase, comprised of about 24 miles, has been completed.
The extension of the Conway Perimeter Road is still going through the permitting process.
Widening of Forestbrook Road, Fred Nash Boulevasd, the Southern Evacuation Lifeline and improvements to the U.S. 17 Business interestection at Garden City are still in the design stages.
As much as I dislike the penny sales tax, I’ll have to admit Horry County taxpayers have received a good return on their investment, helped by the hordes of tourists using the highway systeam to reach the sandy beaches of the Grand Strand.
RIDE I funded construction of S.C. 22 and S.C. 31, Robert Grissom Parkway, the Conway Perimeter Road, the Fantasy Harbour Bridge and the Robert Edge Parkway.
RIDE II paid for the interchange at the back gate of U.S. 17, the widening of S.C. 707 from Enterprise Road to Murrells Inlet, and construction of International Drive.
All of these highways have greatly improved the county’s highway infrastructure.
It’s too bad U.S. 501 couldn’t have had a higher priority when the RIDE programs began. Growth has made the major gateway to the Grand Strand an horrific mess.
Nevertheless, it’s wonderful to get on S.C. 22 and S.C. 31 and travel rapidly to coastal communities.
Horry County’s “can do” attitude makes it one of the premier counties in the state, in my humble opinion.
Riding on a penny has certainly paid off.