Pee Dee leaders have mixed opinions on Interstate 73

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 7:38 PM EDT
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MARION, S.C. (WMBF) - As the conversation surrounding how to pay for the proposed Interstate 73 along the Grand Strand grows, officials and leaders further inland are making their thoughts known.

Gov. Henry McMaster has promised to fight for $300 million from the American Rescue Plan to go towards the interstate that would connect Horry County to Interstate 95.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, who represents the state’s Seventh Congressional District, says he’s also all in.

He said while a huge benefit of the interstate would be how it would bring more tourists to the beaches, the benefits don’t stop there. Rice also says building more infrastructure builds more opportunities.

“Quality of life will increase, opportunity will increase, and the prospects for their children and grandchildren will grow,” he said. “I know for a fact, that if we build this road, it’ll create 10,000-plus jobs, it’ll be the biggest thing that’s ever happened in this district.”

Rice also said he believes those who are opposed are nervous for change.

“In Dillon County, those who didn’t like the idea of the Inland Dillon Port before it was built, they didn’t want to see it there. But now, if you ask people today, they love the Dillon Port,” he said.

However, Dillon County Republican Party Chairman Anthony Moore says he disagrees with the congressman.

“I-73 would not only cost an absurd amount of money,” Moore said. “It would hurt our economy in Dillon County. We rely on a lot of revenue from beach travelers and worry what would happen if we lost that.”

Instead, he’d rather see state Highway 9 expanded.

“We think it would be beneficial if the State continued to explore the idea of expanding S.C. 9 through Dillon,” Moore said. “We feel that’s a good compromise for everyone involved–the state, rural counties, and beach travelers–and want to hear more about that proposal. We think I-73 would not be good for Dillon County. We’d welcome the Governor to talk about this project of widening 9 from Dillon to Green Sea with us if he’s open to it.”

Meanwhile, Marion is a city that has seen a new road change the route beach travelers take when Highway 501 was built. Mayor Ashley Brady says he’s still all in on Interstate 73.

“On I-73 we will have two interchanges, so we will have businesses that develop around those interchanges, we’ll have jobs that will be created at these businesses, and also the jobs that are created from building the interstate,” Brady said.

But he thinks the positive impacts won’t stop there.

“We have an industrial park that won’t be too far away from it, so as the industries are building out, they want to know how close you are to the interstate,” Brady said.

Currently, neither Dillon County officials nor the City of Marion have made any official plans for putting forward money to pay for their portions of I-73.

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