Commission works to find money for I-73

Columbia, SC - COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - Commissioners with the SC Department of Transportation are looking at ways to build an interchange for Interstate 73 in Dillon County before the federal government takes back $10 million in grants committed to the project.

At the State Infrastructure Bank meeting Thursday in Columbia, board members learned other road construction projects across the state are costing less than originally planned. Contractors are spending less for materials and labor, saving the state money.

However, the bank wouldn't have enough to come up with the $75 million needed to get the I-73 interchange at I-95 started. Project officials already have $75 million sitting in the bank.

"That $10 million Tiger Grand is a decision that is going to have to be made, and hopefully with the support of the commission, we'll be using that money for clearing and grubbing for the interchange for I-73," Commission Chairman Danny Isaac said. "With the support of Sen. Hugh Leatherman, NESA and the nine counties in NESA, we have been able to cobble about $75 million of about $150 million needed to build that southern leg. We're very close to getting that done."

In order for the state not to give the money back, South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Buck Limehouse says officials have requested the money be used in other ways. He says they've requested to use the money to upgrade Highway 22 to interstate standards, or use the money to replace bridges on Highway 917 that would have to move to make way for I-73.

Limehouse says Interstate 73 may not qualify for funding through the State Infrastructure Bank because of how it would need to be repaid.

"The problem with I-73 is the source of repayment and certainly the infrastructure bank would be the primary way to go if we could fund it with bonds if we had a source of repayment," Limehouse added.

Highway commissioners say they're also working with federal lawmakers in Washington to come up with ways to fund completing the entire project.

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