HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County leaders are beginning to make plans for the next phase of infrastructure upgrades known as RIDE IV.

The road-improvement projects are funded by voter-approved penny sales taxes collected over the course of several years. The sales tax funding RIDE III accounts for a projected $592 million and expires on April 30, 2025. Horry County is starting to lay the groundwork on RIDE IV now so that the new tax can begin immediately afterward.

Johnny Vaught, a member of the county council, said the county knows it has to get started on RIDE IV now to avoid missing deadlines that would lead to lapses in tax revenue.

“We want to just keep it going because our needs are not just going to take a pause,” he said. “If we don’t go ahead with our process and get it started, then we will lose a year. We can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to keep going ahead.”

The proposed timeline calls for committee work that identifies and narrows down the list of potential projects next spring. One of the projects Vaught said he will push for is the Lake Busbee Bypass, which would connect Conway Perimeter Road with Highway 544. The estimated cost is nearly $300 million.

“If we don’t do something about another way to get across the Waccamaw [River], then we’re setting up the county, and the eastern party especially during an evacuation time or something, we’re setting it up to be an island that you can’t get off of,” Vaught said.

Fixes along Highway 90 are also on the table to be included in RIDE IV, which the county estimates would cost $500 million. Council member Gary Loftus said there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis.

“It boils down to this,” Loftus said. “If you can fix Highway 90, how many people do you help? How many people do you affect? And if you can go after five other roads that affect twice as many people, do you do that?”

Vaught said the county needs to address Highway 90 concerns before RIDE IV plans are finalized because of safety, adding that it would free up hundreds of millions of dollars for other projects in the county.

“That project cannot sit until Ride IV because it’s too much of a public-safety issue,” Vaught said.

RIDE IV is still in the very early stages, but Loftus warned that it can’t become too political.

“It’s got to be done in a rational, practical way,” he said. “If we politicize it, everybody loses.”