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Horry County Council rejects plan to help fund I-73, passes Highway 90 funding

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:25 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – There were heated moments on Tuesday night as councilmembers and members of the community gave their input on two major roadways in Horry County.

On the agenda was a resolution for Horry County to commit $4.2 million dollars in hospitality fees for the next 30 years to the proposed I-73 project. The second resolution was to dedicate about $30 million in extra Ride II money for Highway 90 improvements.

The resolution for the I-73 funding came after Gov. Henry McMaster said he would ask state lawmakers to set aside $300 million to help fund the completion of the interstate, which is expected to cost a total of $1.6 billion. The governor said that the state will come up with half of the $1.6 billion, while the federal and local governments are responsible for the other half. It would mean that local governments in Horry, Dillon and Marion counties would have to help with funding.

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During the public input session, several people took the podium where they stated they did not support funding of I-73 that would run from I-95 to the Grand Strand. Some stated that county leaders need to focus on funding local roads that are in dire need of improvements and public safety.

Following public comment, there was a motion to table both the I-73 and Highway 90 resolutions. It sparked a nearly hour-long debate over road funding, mostly about I-73 and Horry County’s role in paying for it.

Some councilmembers said that Horry County needs to wait and see if the federal government and other local municipalities and governments would dedicate money to the completion of the interstate.

“Nobody else has stepped up to the plate. The governor came and had a big to-do about $300 million. He can’t guarantee that $300 million,” said councilman Johnny Vaught.

So far, the Dillon County Council has already announced that it does not support the proposed I-73 route because there aren’t any on or exit ramps in Dillon County. The Dillon County GOP also stated that it believes I-73 would hurt the county’s economy because it relies heavily on revenue from beach travelers and worries that will be lost if I-73 is built. to oppose the proposed I-73

Councilman Al Allen also questioned whether or not the road would actually bring much to the tourism industry at the beach, and whether or not that money would be better spent on county roads.

“There was a 98% capacity rate at the beach from what I’ve heard this past summer. How can you improve on that? Is a $2 billion highway going to fill those other two percent?” Allen questioned.

In the end, the motion to table both resolutions failed, and councilmembers voted on them.

The I-73 funding resolution failed 5 to 6, with councilmembers Harold Worley, Johnny Gardner, Al Allen, Danny Hardee, Mark Causey and Orton Bellamy voting against it. It would take the majority of council to bring it back up for another vote in the futre.

The Highway 90 funding resolution unanimously passed. One amendment was made to the original resolution, which was to extend Highway 90 improvements to the northern portion of the roadway, past S.C. 22 in the Fairmont area.

But there are questions on how much the $30 million will be able to go toward Highway 90. There was some discussion that since funds from Ride II were also collected in municipalities, some of the money may be returned back to those cities and towns so they can spend the money on their roads. It means the county will put its portion of the extra RIDE II money toward Highway 90.

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