Horry County needs more help than Biden infrastructure package provides, leaders say

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Some members of Horry County Council say they’re worried that President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package won’t be enough to meet the county’s needs.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to use about $250 million a year from the package to repair roads and bridges. While that might sound like a lot, Councilman Johnny Vaught said the need is so significant in Horry County that road repairs will come with an even higher price tag.

“Just ride down [Highway] 544 from one end to the other and you’ll end up dodging patches and potholes from one end to the other,” Vaught he.

Daily commutes have become a challenge for some as more families choose to locate in Horry County.

“In our area, in particular with that growth, … Horry County’s been playing catch up as long as I’ve been here you know, 30 years, and we’ve made great strides,” state Sen. Greg Hembree said.

Funding from the infrastructure package will help with much-needed repairs, he said.

“Highway 90 and Highway 57, in my district, are the two most critical needs,” Hembree said. ” [Highway]501 is constantly a need,” he said.

SCDOT said the federal funding will help boost its 10-year improvement plan that started in 2018. The agency has already approved how the funds will be split each year. The agency’s plans are outlined below:

  • $100 million boost for regional mobility projects.  This funding will nearly double our annual investment for projects to combat congestion in the urban areas and economic development / mobility needs in the rural areas.  Investment in these types of projects are critical in order to keep pace with the rapid growth of our state and to aid the rural areas ability to be competitive.
  •  $69 million boost for more bridge projects.  This will increase the 10-Year target from replacing/rehabbing 465 bridges across the state to 500 bridges by 2027.
  •  $30 million boost for Interstate widening projects.  This will assist in financially supporting SCDOT’s aggressive interstate widening program as part of the 10-Year Plan.
  •   $21 million boost for Safety Projects across the state.   This will enable SC to address some significant issues regarding roadway departure, bike/pedestrian safety and other identified roadway safety concerns.
  •  $15 million for large, capital drainage projects.  This funding is associated with improving the resilience of the network. USDOT is also expected to issue guidance in the near future regarding the allowable uses of the funding.  It is anticipated that the funding will be used to repair and upgrade major drainage facilities on the state-owned network.
  • $13 million for Electric Vehicle Charging/Infrastructure Projects.  This is funding designated specifically by Congress, with USDOT expected to issue guidance in the near future regarding the allowable uses of the funding.  It is anticipated that the funding will be utilized for purposes such as providing charging infrastructure at rest areas, welcome centers and/or transit facilities.
  •  $2 million for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).  This funding is designated specifically by Congress for this purpose and is expected to help fund sidewalk and other modal improvements across the state.

The $30 million to be used for interstate widening across the state, however, raised some concerns for county leaders.

“It’s just too little money to really help us out,” Vaught said. “I mean it’s nice, and having some money is better than not having any at all obviously,” Vaught said.

Vaught said widening Highway 90 is a necessary improvement that will cost nearly $500 million alone.

“We’ve got to do more than just say ‘oh, you know, we gone do a little piece here, do a little piece there,'” he said. “We’ve got to get a plan together, and we got to start spending some more towards it.”

Vaught said the county council is prepared to find others ways to pay for the projects. Lawmakers still have to decide how the money will be split across the state. The process could take years to complete.

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