SCDOT to consider toll system for I-73

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The next step to paving the road for I-73 construction is to study the effect of a tolling system on the project, according to SCDOT.

Years ago, tolling was approved on I-73 for if and when the road construction started. However, the SCDOT feels the study's results, done almost a decade ago, has outdated information. For instance, inflation could make the project cost even more.

So, the SCDOT wants to see if a toll system would be appropriate for the project currently.

"Tolls would provide two main things: One, to fund construction. Two, to fund maintenance," explained Pete Poore with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Poore doesn't believe a toll system would fund the cost of construction.

"In reality, no toll will pay for the total cost of construction," he said. He adds, "If it is built, it will need tolls to pay for maintenance."

Currently, there are only two toll systems in the Palmetto State.

Last week, SCDOT Commissioner Mike Wooten proposed to the committee to discuss a toll study. It would address many questions, such as the cost to construct the toll system, the dollar amount for commuters, where the toll booths would be placed, and for how long.

"There are many tools in the toolbox. One of those is tolling. It could be a very small tool, or a jackhammer, we don't know," said Wooten.

The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce supports the study in order to decide if tolls are advisable.

"So much has changed since the previous study. We have more visitors from different areas, including states that already have tolls," said Brad Dean, the President of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Dean also understands many commuters are opposed to the idea, because they already pay a gas tax.

"You have to look at two things. First, it takes more to fund the maintenance needs than the gas tax provides. Secondly, gas habits have changed. There are more fuel efficient cars, and people simply aren't paying as much in the gas tax," he explained.

Dean believes the SCDOT can't depend on old ways to fund a new road.

"While a toll may not be the best bet for I-73, it needs to be studied. We need to invest in it now to make it a reality in the future," he said.

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