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Dorchester voters pass 1 percent sales tax to fund roads

Dorchester County's penny tax (copy)

Dorchester County council chairman Bill Hearn speaks in support of the Dorchester County's penny tax that was on the ballot. File/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — A referendum to extend a 1 percent sales tax to fund road projects in Dorchester County passed with 59 percent of the vote and nearly all votes counted.

The 25-year tax has been in place since 2004 and has paid for improvements to Bacons Bridge Road, the S.C. Highway 27 and Deming Way intersections of U.S. Highways 78, 178 and 15, Industrial Road and Patriots Boulevard. It also funded the resurfacing of streets in the smaller areas of Harleyville, Ridgeville and St. George.

That tax is set to expire when it reaches its $302 million cap, likely in 2025.

The vote extends the tax by 15 years, or until it reaches its new cap at $735 million. Approximately $35 million of that will go specifically to greenbelt improvements.

County officials plan to complete improvements to U.S. 78 started under the original tax while adding several other road improvement projects. Among those are widening Dorchester Road, as well as work on Maple Street, Orangeburg Loop, Miles Jamison Road., U.S. Highway 17A, Central Avenue, Midland Parkway, Wire Road and Parsons Road.

The continuation of the tax became a contentious issue as the referendum drew nearer with the Dorchester County Republican Party and multiple challengers to sitting council members running for reelection coming out against it. 

The county's population has exploded in the last two decades, growing from 96,400 in 2000 to 161,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2030, the county is projected to have more than 200,000 residents. The boom has caused traffic headaches throughout the county, especially in the growing Summerville.

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