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

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) — The federal government may soon help kick-start the completion of Interstate 73.

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

Graham made the funding requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee in July after asking leaders across the state to provide a list of projects requiring federal funding.

“These are some of the critical infrastructure projects across our state,” Graham said. “I was proud to apply for and receive funds for these projects. I think it’s important that elected officials have a say in how taxpayers’ 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 requiring federal funding. On that list was to help fund the acquisition of the I-73 right-of-way. Graham requested the full $15 million needed for the right-of-way and it is now included in the proposed spending bill.

This follows a new push to secure funding to complete the project, which could give vacationers and businesses a new way to get in and out of Myrtle Beach. All for a price of $1.6 billion.

“We have been calling for this road for years. A lot of things have come together over the past two years,” said Karen Riordan, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

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

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

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Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught said Friday that with roads in places like Interstates 22 and 31 — a route like I-73 would ease traffic on major roads like Interstate 501. However , it would be a long process while waiting for construction to begin.

“Given that we have to design the thing, buy the right of way – all of that takes time,” he said. “I would be surprised if we put shovelfuls in less than five years.”

Vaught is also studying another road project, like the $250 million Busbee Bypass, which could be part of RIDE IV.

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

Vaught added that ‘we need something to get around Conway’ as more and more people move and holiday in the Grand Strand.

As for I-73, Governor 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 provide 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 has passed a resolution supporting the completion of I-73 but has not yet committed any money to the project.

Further in the Pee Dee, Dillon County voted in October not to support the I-73 route proposed by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The city manager said there are no plans for on-ramps or egress in Dillon County on I-73, and that would hurt the county’s economy.

The proposed spending bill also includes $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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