Myrtle Beach reiterates support for I-73 ahead of Horry County special meeting

Congressman Tom Rice weighs in on I-73 ahead of Horry County special called meeting

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The city of Myrtle Beach is firing back at Horry County’s possible decision to cancel its I-73 contract with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

The county council has called a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the I-73 contract and their next step in the process.

Horry County has until October 1 to finalize plans for I-73, but the SCDOT needs a 30-day notice if Horry County decides to cancel the contract, which means they must alert the agency by September 1 of a cancellation.

Horry County councilman Johnny Vaught told WMBF News that the fight between the county and municipalities over hospitality fees has left the county with no revenue source to pay for the work.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, a councilman Danny Hardee said he does believe we need to grow in the county, but we need to do so responsibly.

“If they had I-73 completed today and they were coming off of I-73 into Horry County. Where are they going? I mean there are no roads," Hardee said. "There’s not infrastructure today in Horry County to handle interstate traffic, in my opinion.”

To this, South Carolina U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said when he looks around, there are roads already being built throughout the county.

“Highway 31 is being extended, Carolina Forest is being widened, they’re widening Highway 501 and I think they’re doing work on Highway 90, all a part of RIDE III. I mean in terms of interior Horry County, they’re doing more road building than anywhere else I know of inside the county. People say we need to work on our existing roads, they are working on our existing roads,” said Rice.

The congressman said this interstate is more than just a way for people to travel, it’s also about jobs. Not just in Horry County, but into the Pee Dee as well.

“This is three of the poorest counties in the state, you don’t think it would impact them? It would go right by the Dillon Inlet Port. It would give industries that want to locate in western Horry County, like Cool Springs Industrial Park for example,” said Rice.

The city of Myrtle Beach said that it publicly stated in April 2019 that it would devote money to the I-73 project, as did other municipalities within Horry County.

The city also stated that Horry County is still able to collect $22 million in hospitality fees from unincorporated areas.

“That amount of money, $22 million, plus contributions by the City of Myrtle Beach and other municipalities, would be more than enough to fund the contract with the SC Department of Transportation,” the city of Myrtle Beach said in a statement.

The city also addressed allegations that there was no movement during mediation meetings between them and Horry County over the hospitality fee fight.

Officials said it contradicts statements made by Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner who said that both sides worked hard during the mediation sessions and that some progress was made.

WMBF News reporter Casey Watson, asked Rice, "If you could say a few words specifically to these council members going into tomorrow’s meeting, what would it be?”

“Please put your pride and your personality difference aside and let’s get this resolved and let’s move forward for the good of your constituents, for the good of your children and for the good of your grandchildren. Be leaders. Let’s get it done,” Rice replied.

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