Newly appointed SCDOT Commissioner explains I-73 delays

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Mike Wooten, SCDOT Commissioner of the 7th Congressional District spoke to the Republican Executive Committee of Horry County Monday night.

Wooten said his intentions were to discuss how to increase revenues in an effort to maintain the roads in SC and to explain the permitting issues associated with the roads the state is trying to build.

Wooten said the delay of I-73 is costing Horry County taxpayers millions of dollars. He said in order to change that, the community needs to get involved.

"People need to be aware that their tax dollars are being wasted dealing with these frivolous issues," Wooten said.

Wooten said it's the letter that groups such as the Coastal Conservation League write in opposition to I-73 is what's costing taxpayers so much money.

"When we try to move forward with the project, we have to go through the permitting processes that's necessary to get these roads built. But then there's the ability, because of the way the laws are written, for somebody for the price of a postage stamp to oppose the permit," Wooten said.

Wooten says tax dollars go towards attorney fees to and construction fees. But CCL Representative Nancy Cave said part of the permit process is to get public comment and that's what the CCL is doing by writing the letters. Wooten said the groups know their efforts push the project back.

"The people have the opportunity to speak out, but it's not the people who have problems with these projects," Wooten said.

Wooten said the SCDOT wouldn't be in the position it's in with I-73 if there were some repercussions for people who fight a permit.

"Post a bond for 10% of the value of that project. If you lose, you forfeit the bond. That money goes to pay for the loss of time and money that's associated with the permitting process," Wooten said.

Cave said the CCL is not holding up the permit process, nor costing tax payers money. Cave said Wooten's accusations are a diversion to the fact that there is no money and no permits for I-73. Wooten said the SCDOT is having a hard time securing funds for the project, but the letters of opposition aren't helping to move the process along.

"We are fourth from the top in the number of lane miles that are looked after by our DOT compared to the other states. And, we're fourth from the bottom in funding per lane mile. So we're at the wrong end of both of those graphs," Wooten said.

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