MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A lawsuit filed by the Coastal Conservation League against multiple defendants continues to delay the I-73 project as the group hopes to find a “more fiscally responsible alternative.”
On Wednesday, Judge Bruce Hendricks rejected to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, against 10 defendants including the United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
The judge did dismiss some of the claims in the suit for a variety of reasons but did not dismiss the suit altogether, meaning work still cannot begin on the project which has been in the works since the ’90s.
The CCL is asking that officials look into the Grand Strand Expressway, which is a proposal to connect Myrtle Beach to Interstate 95 with upgrades to the S.C. 38 and U.S. 501 corridor, rather than expanding I-73, which the group said will cost upwards of $4 billion to build, destroy 325 acres of wetlands and displace local businesses.
“The U.S. District Court has determined that the Chamber has a business interest in this project, not a legal interest,” Erin Pate with the Coastal Conservation League said Thursday. "Judge Hendrix’s opinion speaks for itself.”
If the project moves forward, I-73 would run from Michigan to Myrtle Beach, with around 75 miles in South Carolina, once completed.
In December 2017, South Carolina Congressman Tom Rice said in a statement that the CCL is “in the business of filing lawsuits that delay infrastructure projects.”
“It comes as no surprise that they are now working to sabotage I-73. This road is the most important infrastructure project in our district,” Rice said. “It will traverse Marlboro, Dillon, and Marion counties, which are some of the poorest in our state, and end in Horry. I-73 will make each of these counties and those surrounding more attractive to industry and will bring thousands of jobs.”