MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A study that looked at adding tolls to fund Interstate 73 shows that $2.3 billion could be raised to fund the interstate.
The study, called the I-73 Intermediate Traffic and Revenue Study, is focused on tolling and funding of I-73, and was submitted by C&M Associates Inc. to the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
The study projects tolls could raise $2.3 billion over 40 years. Locals residents would not pay those rates; instead, they would pay a discounted monthly rate.
"We had hoped that it would be a substantial tool, but we had no idea that it would be the kind of tool that it is," said SCDOT Chairman Mike Wooten. "It's a sledgehammer."
Wooten says the toll rates aren't set in stone at this point, but they do have an idea of what drivers would pay. Drivers on I-73 and Highway 22 would pay around 12 cents per mile. Drivers would pay around 15 cents per mile.
"The goal here with this approach would be to turn it into an expressway, which would allow us to have a higher speed limit, which would further entice people to drive on the road," said Wooten.
How much would you be willing to pay in tolls to drive on I-73? Mobile users - click here to voice your opinion on the proposed toll in our poll.
If the two projects were to be expressways, allowing higher speed limits in the 80-85 mph range, they would have to be locally-funded. The Accommodations Tax and Ride IV funds could be a big part of it.
Wooten says SCDOT is ready to file permits on I-73 within the next 30 to 60 days. He says the SELL Project is another ten years behind I-73.
When asked about the progress, Wooten described the two roads from his own perspective.
"I feel like I have a good chance of riding on I-73, but I'm not so certain I may last long enough to see SELL," described Wooten. "If you don't plan now, you'll never get it built."