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Roads: Haley vetos corridor study funds at ‘pork’

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Funds earmarked for the state Department of Transportation to help pay for a study of the Highway 17 corridor through Waccamaw Neck were vetoed this week by Gov. Nikki Haley among a list of budget items she labeled “old-fashioned pork.”

The governor also vetoed $500,000 for DOT’s planning and study of a route across the Intracoastal Waterway in Horry County, a project known as the Southern Evacuation Lifeline. Haley said in her veto message that $4.5 million was already earmarked for that project in the DOT budget.

State Sen. Ray Cleary said he isn’t sure if there are enough votes in the legislature to override the vetoes. He included the $25,000 for the corridor study in the DOT budget at the request of Georgetown County Council Member Steve Goggans. “I understand what her position is,” Cleary said, but he disagreed that it is pork.

Goggans also hopes to get funds from the Bunnelle Foundation and the county to update a 2003 study that identified ways to improve traffic flow and safety on Highway 17. The installation of a raised median in the Pawleys Island business district was one of the corridor study recommendations. Goggans led a group opposed to the design of the median project before running for County Council last year.

“I look at it as an economic issue in that if this median project hurts a lot of businesses, can we assist them in making some small changes?” Cleary said. “The state’s paying to study other problems in the state.”

As for the waterway crossing, Cleary said “we don’t have all the money we need.”

State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, who was elected last week to chair the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study policy committee, agreed the project is important, but said $750,000 was included in a supplemental appropriations bill for environmental impact studies.

“Because we were successful in appropriating that money, the additional $500,000 dedicated in the general appropriations bill for EIS has now become unnecessary,” he said. He will vote to sustain the veto.

The money could be better spent fixing roads and bridges, he added.

Mike Wooten, the 7th District representative on the DOT commission, acknowledged the money for the environmental work is sufficient. But he said the extra $500,000 would still help the project. “It’s important, but not a deal-breaker,” he said.

Wooten said he was more concerned by the loss of eight top DOT engineers. They left for industry jobs ahead of a deadline in a Senate proviso that would have barred their new firms from DOT contracts for a year. The proviso was later repealed.

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