Environmental group files lawsuit asking for a look at cheaper options to I-73

Environmental group files lawsuit asking for a look at cheaper options to I-73

CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) – A local environmental group filed a lawsuit Tuesday that is asking federal agencies to examine a "more fiscally responsible alternative" to Interstate 73.

According to a press release, the Coastal Conservation League is asking that officials look into the Grand Strand Expressway, which is a proposal to connect Myrtle Beach to Interstate 95 with upgrades to the S.C. 38 and U.S. 501 corridor.

CCL leaders said the proposed expressway would save $2 billion, "compared to the I-73 boondoggle pushed by Horry County officials and special interests," the release stated.

"For too many years, Myrtle Beach special interests have been pushing a multi-billion dollar new interstate that will serve only one part of the state," Erin Pate, with the CCL, said in a statement. "This would hijack federal money from more urgent needs throughout South Carolina."

The lawsuit points out that federal officials merely dusted off old studies in approving the permits, rather than taking a "fresh and thorough look" at whether an interstate is needed, the press release stated.

Members of the Coastal Conservation League have been at odds with I-73 proponents for years.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said in a statement Tuesday that the CCL is "in the business of filing lawsuits that delay infrastructure projects."

"It comes as no surprise that they are now working to sabotage I-73. This road is the most important infrastructure project in our district," Rice said. "It will traverse Marlboro, Dillon and Marion counties, which are some of the poorest in our state, and end in Horry. I-73 will make each of these counties and those surrounding more attractive to industry and will bring thousands of jobs."

Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and one of I-73's biggest champions, stated in a video posted to the chamber's Facebook page that it would be the most environmentally-sensitive road project ever built in the Palmetto State.

According to Dean, for every acre of wetland impacted by I-73's construction, 23 acres of pristine land will be set aside.

"Just like the Coastal Conservation League did with International Drive, Highway 707, Highway 31, once again they're holding up a project that's important to our economy, important to our community, something the taxpayers desperately want and need," Dean said in the video.

Earlier this year, a construction permit for I-73 was granted. Studies indicate it will generate about 22,000 permanent and 7,700 temporary jobs in South Carolina.

The CCL said I-73 will cost upwards of $4 billion to build, destroy 325 acres of wetlands and displace local businesses.

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