MYRTLE BEACH, SC — Approval for funding of the Interstate 73/95 interchange in Dillon County – what has become known as the Interchange of Hope – was approved yesterday, marking a huge success for the I-73 project and the entire I-73/74/75 corridor. Secured funding for this crucial interchange is seen as significant progress by both Association members and I-73 supporters. Once completed, the remaining portion to be built from Latta, SC to Galivants Ferry, SC stretches approximately 30 miles and will be the only project / funding remaining to complete the southern leg of I-73.
"With this investment by SCDOT, the questions around I-73 are no longer a matter of 'if' but a matter of 'when.' Securing the funding for the interchange positions us well as it sends a message to Washington that we're serious about investing in and completing I-73, which could help lure in additional investment. We literally are on the road to success," said Brad Dean, President of the National I-73/74/75 Corridor Association, "It's only a matter of time."
The interstate, from Myrtle Beach to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., would cross six states — Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and the Carolinas — and traverse 80 miles in four South Carolina counties: Marlboro, Dillon, Marion and Horry. It also would be the first interstate link to Myrtle Beach, the heart of the South Carolina's $16 billion tourism industry.
According to an economic impact study conducted by Coastal Carolina University Research Economist Dr. Donald Schunk, the construction of I-73 can be expected to generate a total of
7, 718 new jobs, including new construction jobs and jobs generated regionally through economic ripple effects during the I-73 construction phase throughout the Myrtle Beach area and Pee Dee Region of South Carolina. The study also concludes that over a full construction phase of five years, a total of 38,600 employment positions would be supported and nearly $1.4 billion in household income would be generated.
The North Eastern Strategic Alliance, the South Carolina General Assembly, the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, along with the Obama Administration through the TIGER grant all aided the success of this latest project by helping to secure funding for the interchange in Dillon County, and officials say this investment should help I-73/74/75 to gain inclusion into the upcoming Highway Reauthorization Bill.
"Approval of the Dillon County interchange is great news and the result of a collaborative group effort," said Alan Clemmons, Chairman of the National I-73/74/75 Corridor Association. "The focus now will be on securing funding in the upcoming Highway Reauthorization Bill, where one of the most important things will be to make sure that we have a presence in Washington to emphasize our investment in the project and highlight the positive economic impact it would have it terms of attracting business and creating jobs."
The U.S. Congress is set to take up the Highway Reauthorization Bill this year and, according to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the bill could invest as much as $500 billion in transportation infrastructure over a six-year period.