MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina leg of a proposed interstate that would end on the Grand Strand may benefit from President Trump’s infrastructure plan.
Some leaders say Interstate 73 construction could be approved sooner, but paying for the highway could change. The president’s plan says the federal government would pay for 20 percent of a project, with more costs shifted towards local governments, the private sector and people.
That means if I-73 is built, it will likely include tolls.
“I think the odds for I-73 are looking better and better,” says Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Dean is in Washington D.C., pushing for Congress to approve construction of Interstate 73 in South Carolina.
“I-73 will be good for our economy, good for jobs, but it will also be a lifesaver in the event of a hurricane,” he said.
President Trump’s $200 billion infrastructure plan would speed up the approval process for projects. Dean says the President supports the I-73 project.
“President Trump endorsed I-73 when he was a candidate,” Dean said. “We met with him last fall as president and he again reminded us that he’s committed to building I-73.”
The infrastructure plan also says the federal government would only pay up to 20 percent of a project’s cost.
“It returns power to the state and local governments who know best what their people need,” President Trump said. “Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress.”
That means states, local governments and people will have to make up the rest, which Dean says likely means tolls for I-73.
“I think it’s become increasingly apparent that user fees are going to have to be a part of that discussion, and if tourists are going to drive on it, they’re willing to pay for it,” Dean said.
A 2016 study prepared for the South Carolina Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration says Interstate 73 would generate more than $14 Million in revenue by 2030.
The President’s infrastructure plan also asks for private investment to offset costs.
“Once the federal government announced last June that it was going to issue the I-73 permit, we’ve heard from dozens of private sector investors who might be willing to invest in I-73,” Dean said.
In a statement Monday, South Carolina Republican Rep. Tom Rice said, “In 1991, Congress designated I-73 as a high priority project. This morning, President Trump released his infrastructure framework that I believe will finally get this project off the ground.”
Rep. Rice’s statement also said the president’s infrastructure plan would “address unmet rural infrastructure needs” and “empower state and local authorities.”
South Carolina’s transportation secretary Christy Hall also released a statement Monday, praising the infrastructure plan.
The statement said, “We look forward to working with the President’s administration to review the details of the proposal and determine how the South Carolina Department of Transportation can accelerate its current priority programs such as rural road safety, interstate widenings and bridge projects as well as advancing additional infrastructure in our state.”
The Interstate 73 project needs Congressional approval before construction can begin.