Horry County leaders react to additional federal funding to help complete I-73

Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 11:20 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The federal government could soon help kickstart the completion of Interstate 73.

On Thursday, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham sent out a list of projects in the Palmetto State that will receive federal funding. The money will come from the Fiscal Year 2022 spending bill, which passed the U.S. Senate late Thursday and was reportedly signed by President Joe Biden on Friday.

Graham made the funding requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee back in July after asking leaders throughout the state to provide a list of projects that need federal funding.

“These are some of the critical infrastructure projects across our state,” said Graham. “I was proud to request and receive funding for these projects. I believe it is important that elected officials have a say in how taxpayer money is spent and not rely on bureaucrats in Washington to protect South Carolina’s interests.”

Horry County Council sent a list to Graham’s office of projects in need of federal funding. On that list was to help fund the I-73 right-of-way acquisition. Graham requested the full $15 million needed for the right-of-way and it is now included in the proposed spending bill.

It follows a renewed push to get funding for completing the project, which could give vacationers and businesses a new way in and out of Myrtle Beach. All at a $1.6 billion price tag.

“We’ve been asking for this road for years. A lot of pieces have come together in the past couple of years,” said Karen Riordan, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Riordan also said the Grand Strand has lost out on a number of businesses that would have brought hundreds of non-tourism jobs to the area. All because there is no major access to any interstates.

“We’ve like to diversify the economy with new businesses here,” she added.

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Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught said Friday that with roads in places like Highway 22 and 31 - a route like I-73 would alleviate traffic off major roads like Highway 501. However, it would be a long process while waiting for construction to begin.

“Given the fact that we have to design the thing, buy the right of way - all of that takes time,” he said. “I’d be surprised if we’re putting shovels to the ground in less than five years.”

Vaught is also looking into another road project, like the $250 million Busbee Bypass, that could become a part of RIDE IV.

“One of the nice things is that we wouldn’t have to disrupt any traffic to build it,” he said. “Which should make it a short build time. IT would have to be a 1.5-mile bridge on it, and it makes good sense all the way around.”

Vaught added that “we need something to get us around Conway” as more people move and vacation into the Grand Strand.

As for I-73, Gov. Henry McMaster announced last October that he would ask state lawmakers to set aside $300 million for the first phase of the project. He added that the state will come up with half of the $1.6 billion, while federal and local governments are responsible for the other half.

The cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have both passed resolutions committing money to the project. Marion County Council passed a resolution supporting the completion of I-73 but has not committed any money to the project yet.

Further into the Pee Dee, Dillon County voted in October to not support the I-73 route that has been put forth by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The city manager said there aren’t any plans for on or exit ramps in Dillon County on I-73, and that it would hurt the county’s economy.

Also included in the proposed spending bill is $12.72 million for the construction of a new Medical University of South Carolina hospital that would serve Lake City, Kingstree and surrounding communities.

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