SOCASTEE, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Senate approved a $12 billion budget that does not include $300 million for the proposed Interstate 73 previously pledged by Gov. Henry McMaster.
“I believe that I-73 will be a transformative component to South Carolina’s future economic prosperity,” McMaster said during an October visit to Myrtle Beach.
McMaster reaffirmed his pledge to News13 in December when he said it would be up the legislature.
Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught said I-73 is a “pipe dream.”
“I think I-73 is a good idea, but, like I said, it’s got so many pieces to the puzzle, and our little piece of the puzzle doesn’t really matter all that much,” Vaught said about the money Horry County would contribute to the interstate’s construction. “We’re not going to tie up our funds on a pipe dream when we’ve got other places we need to spend our funds on here in the county.”
Vaught said I-73 has the backing of county council but the county is stuck without state or federal help.
“I mean we’re sitting there ready, and I think everybody’s in favor of it as long as the other big boys step up,” Vaught said. “We’re just not going to go for the bait until we see there are some fish in the water.”
Horry County Council nixed a plan to fund I-73 with more than $100 million over the next 30 years last fall. Councilman Harold Worley said in November the $300 million from the state would not be coming.
Vaught said county council now needs to prioritize local roads that need fixing first.
“There are some other projects in the county that the county needs for roads and infrastructure,” Vaught said.
The Coastal Conservation League, which had a lawsuit dismissed in September trying to block the interstate, said there are better ways to spend that money than on I-73.
“It should go toward fixing existing roads, raising -flood prone roads and things like that as opposed to building a brand new interstate,” CCL North Coast Office Director Becky Ryon said.
Myrtle Beach City Council approved a resolution in December to fund the project with $4.2 million yearly for 30 years, given adequate state and federal funding plus construction starting by the end of 2024.
Mayor Brenda Bethune said the project is not dead yet.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the road,” Bethune said. “Governor McMaster really took this on as something he was pushing for. We had his full support, and I think that’s something he will keep fighting for. I think that’s something some of our delegation will keep fighting for.”