MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Now that I-73 permits are in the hands of local leaders, construction can start.
We're told it should take a few years once it begins, but the question now is - how will the road get funded?
Local leaders plan to combine local funding, state funds and public/private partnerships. They're also banking on help from President Trump. But most importantly, making sure the state legislature changes a law to allow I-73 to be a toll road.
Leaders said the plan is to build I-73, both north and south of I-95, but the urgent priority is to build that connection between I-95 and Highway 22.
So how will that portion get funded? Horry County implemented a hospitality tax that paid for Highway 22, the final segment of I-73. They've now taken a step to extend the 1.5 percent tax, not raise but simply continue it. Horry County's hospitality tax could generate $400 million for I-73. Those funds are projected to pay for a third of the cost of I-73, which will move the project forward quickly.
But local leaders say making I-73 a toll road so tourists can help pay for it will be the most logical way. Right now there are only two toll roads in the entire state of South Carolina. And if I-73 becomes the third, leaders say it will be the only one to have 18 million visitors coming to the destination, with most of them driving. Tolls will also pay for most of the cost of the Pee Dee portion for I-73.
"If we want to see this road built, we have to step forward with local hospitality fees and tolls and that will allow I-73 to become reality sooner rather than later," said Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean.
Local leaders say, historically, interstates have been funded mostly by the federal government. It pays 90 percent and the state and local government comes up with 10 percent.
But local leaders knew that the federal government hasn't been able to pay for roads for a long time. So leaders have been planning all along to reverse that model.
Local leaders hope to combine local funding, state funds, public and private partnerships as well as tolls. And offer to the federal government that it would only have to pay a small portion of the fee.
Which they hope appeals to President Trump and his trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
"Feds should really have to pick up most of the tab, but in this day and age we've got to pick ourselves up by our own boot straps and be a self-help community and by using the local ride fee and tolls we think this makes this project fit the trump administrations project like a glove," Dean said.
The southern section of I-73 is projected to cost 1.1 to 1.2 billion dollars.