Opponents claim I-73 alternative smarter, cheaper

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – It's billed as a great necessity for the Grand Strand, but so far there's been no progress in Interstate 73's construction.

Now, opponents to the project are proposing an alternative plan they claim will have the same effect as an Interstate, and save taxpayers billions.

"It would upgrade Highways 38 and 501," said Nancy Cave with the Coastal Conservation League. "It wouldn't be necessarily to interstate standards, but it would be to an expressway."

Cave and the League are proposing what they call the "Grand Strand Expressway." She says it would merely upgrade pre-existing roads, but would only cost a tenth of I-73's estimated $2.2 Billion price tag.

"Until an entire interstate is built, it has no utility," she said. "I could be years, and years until an interstate is ever really built."

But some of I-73's most avid supporters, like Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean, say the proposed expressway is unrealistic, and won't hold up to massive traffic coming in and out of the Grand Strand.

"Expanding existing roadways is helpful in some instances," Dean said. "But it certainly isn't going to bring in new industry."

While the cost of bringing I-73 to the Myrtle Beach area is high, Dean says the benefits are far greater.

"It'll bring new jobs, higher paying jobs, and most importantly, it could save lives in the event of a hurricane."

But Cave says the price tag isn't accurate, and doesn't factor in highway maintenance.

"It's supposed to create 26,000 jobs?" Cave said. "That's all speculation."

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