Environmental advocates push back against I-73 project

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — While the decades-long push for construction on Interstate 73 hasn’t started, some environmentalists want it to stay that way.

Alan Hancock works for the Coastal Conservation League, the organization that filed a lawsuit to stop construction before it began. Hancock says their main issue with I-73 is the environmental impact and that he says no other options were considered.

“Federal law requires when the federal government is spending money on a big transportation project that they consider all the alternatives, just to make sure the taxpayers aren’t spending any money that they don’t have to and we don’t think that happened in this case,” he explained.

Those who support the construction of I-73 say it will bolster an already booming tourism industry and cut down on tourist-related traffic.

“It will positively impact tourism, in that tourists will be able to get here in a more direct route,” said Karen Riordan, the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Riordan says 90% of Grand Strand travelers get here by car.

“They want to bring their kids, they want to bring their beach chairs, they want to bring their pets, they want to bring grandma, they want to bring grandpa; so they just load up the whole SUV and come down here,” she said.

Riordan said the Chamber was excited to hear about Senator Lindsey Graham’s recent request for $12 million dollars from the federal government.

If granted, that $12 million and a local allocation from Horry County would start construction on the I-73 right-of-way acquisition; just a small piece of the estimated $2.3 billion project. 

That money, Hancock says would be better spent elsewhere.

“We’re opposed because there are cheaper alternatives available that have less of an impact on communities,” he said. “We support strengthening some of the existing roads so Highway 38, Highway 501 that are already in pretty good shape. Those options are much cheaper and have less of an impact on communities than a new, $2 billion dollar interstate would.”

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