Chamber CEO talks I-73 funding with President Trump

Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 6:44 PM EDT
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Helicopter flyover during Tom Rice's tour. (Source: Tom Rice)
Helicopter flyover during Tom Rice's tour. (Source: Tom Rice)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's taken decades to work on getting the Interstate 73 permit and now the federal government is saying the road can finally be constructed.

The question now is how to fund it.

Local organizations such as the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce want to help push it forward. The I-73 permit was issued back in June and not much has been done to construct the southern part linking S.C. 22 and Interstate 95, leading MBACC president and CEO Brad Dean to say some people thought the project was at a standstill.

Dean had the chance to discuss the project with President Donald Trump face-to-face for the first time on Monday, during the president's stop in Greenville.

The southern portion would cost nearly $1.4 billion and Dean said Trump is supportive.

"Now that President Trump is in office, he is talking about an infrastructure package unlike any that we have ever seen. It's a $1 trillion proposal, so it opens up the potential for projects like I-73," Dean said. "When candidate Trump came through, he said he wanted to build I-73. Now we need to position this as a priority for President Trump and make it a reality soon."

Though the project is a plus for tourism, Dean said I-73 represents more than just an increase in tourism.

"It's about creating higher-paying jobs throughout our region," he said. "Economists are estimating 7,000 jobs during construction and 22,000 after construction and that could be an economic explosion for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee."

On Friday morning, Congressman Tom Rice took a helicopter flyover with a representative from California who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the committee that will help craft the infrastructure package.

"Here in South Carolina, we know I-73 is an important priority, but there are 49 other states with lots of legislators that aren't familiar with that. What Congressman Rice has done in bringing people like Rep. Denham and Rep. Walker to the Grand Strand is to not only talk about building roads but actually see the routes," Dean said.

It will hopefully become a reality soon.

"Horry County has stepped forward with a commitment for the local community and the tolling study has been done by DOT and they'll have to further expand that," Dean said.

President Trump told Dean he hopes to break ground on I-73 during his presidency, so Dean said he is hopeful Congress will pass the funding.

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