RIDE III road projects warrant one cent sales tax increase

The Ride III commission committee voted on a preliminary list of road projects that it says warrants a one cent sales tax increase for Horry County residents.

After various meetings, the commission decided on 13 projects considered to have high priority, as well as 100 miles of dirt road paving and an additional 100 miles of road resurfacing.

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Photo of the 13 road projects recommended in the preliminary RIDE III project listing.

A six-lane widening of U.S. 501, four-lane widening of Carolina Forest Blvd, extending S.C. 31 to the North Carolina state-line, extending Fred Nash Boulevard to connect with Harrelson Boulevard and widening Forestbrook Road are just a few that are highlighted in the recommended project listing.

It is estimated that these projects will require a $590 million budget to execute, but the Department of Transportation estimated a much larger budget needed to complete all of the vital road improvements throughout the county.

According to Director of the RIDE III commission, Eddie Dyer, a one cent sales tax increase is essential because of the lack of funding from the state and government. 

“The feds aren’t giving us any money this year,” said Dyer. “The state of South Carolina gave us $10 million. Now, if you put $10 million beside $1.944 billion, you can see why the one cent sales tax is being proposed.”

Conway resident Jody Nyers said the challenge for the commission is going to be how to prioritize the projects.

“I truly believe that all these projects have an importance and now it is that matter of prioritizing them,” said Nyers. “What I feel is important might be different then what somebody else feels important, but I do believe that we need to get 501. It’s my number one priority or at least it would be in my mind.”

If approved in November 2016, the sales tax will go into effect May 2017 and will last eight years.

The tax will include all retail sales, prepared food, beverages and lodging rentals. All groceries are exempt.

Public Information Officer for Myrtle Beach, Mark Kruea, said that residents recognize that the need for the sales tax increase is imperative.

“The voters have approved it on 2 different occasions,” said Kruea “They understand that by virtue of all of the visitors that we get, that not only their money but all of the visitor’s money goes to pay for these road projects that we couldn’t afford any other way. The voters already said yes to it twice before so that is a good sign.”

Nyers, who has followed the initiatives since RIDE I, expressed support for the tax increase because it is being used for something that is beneficial.

“I’ve been here for RIDE I and RIDE II but I agree RIDE III mainly because the 1 cent sales tax,” said Nyers. “Anyway that we can collect money to then use it for the purpose of paving and widening is beneficial and the only way we’re going to get money to do any of this is by putting out something like a one cent sales tax. I’m a person that believes that if I’m going to pay taxes, I will gladly pay an extra cent if I know for a fact that money is going to these road improvements or establishments of new roads.”

Because of Myrtle Beach’s location, many visitors come to enjoy the beach and spend money during heavy tourist seasons like spring and summer.

Dyer said that the revenue from the tourists should take some of the costs away from residents.

“With my committee, what we’re trying to say is that this can be done with a one cent sales tax,” said Dyer. “We are a very heavy tourist area and those tourists are going to pay close to half of the overall tax. This helps take some of the burden of paying off of residents.”

If the sales tax is not approved, Horry County will only have the $10 million given to it by the state of South Carolina and will have to rework its plans entirely.

“There’s no plan B,”  said Dyer. “If you’re happy with the roads and the traffic situation around here the way it is don’t worry about the penny sales tax.”

Horry County residents will have the chance to vote in November 2016 during the primary elections.