Some say McMaster’s funding plans for I-73 project are ‘irresponsible’

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Some local leaders are in disagreement after Gov. Henry McMaster visited Myrtle Beach to announce funding plans for I-73 — with some saying the timing is irresponsible.

State representative William Bailey said while he’s all for building I-73, the timing of Governor McMaster’s announcement was simply irresponsible.

“It’s kind of nonsensical to provide a route so more people can get here, when the people who are here feel like they don’t have the proper infrastructure,” Bailey said.

McMaster made a trip to the Grand Strand Monday where he recommended state lawmakers use $300 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan funds and the 2022 budget to build I-73. However, others believe the timing for this is all wrong.

“We don’t know whether our hospitals are going to need this money, we don’t know whether our first responders are going to need this money, we don’t know whether we’re going to need it to put people back to work,” Bailey said. “It’s just an inappropriate time now to spend this or have pledged this money for a project.”

Trapper Fowler is an Horry County native with the Coastal Conservation League and he attended yesterday’s news conference. He said it’s unfortunate and fiscally irresponsible.

“These funds were passed to compensate communities for the impacts of COVID-19 and they weren’t set aside to fund unnecessary road projects,” Fowler said. “These funds should go towards projects that benefit everyone in South Carolina.”

Both Bailey and Fowler touched on the fact that improvements for existing local roads should be a first priority.

“We have plenty of existing road and bridge improvements that need to occur first as a priority so that people can safely and efficiently have access to our larger roadways,” Fowler said. 

Moving forward, Bailey believes the state should first focus on the direct needs in the county, before tourists traveling to the area.

“I think to build up the infrastructure inside or county is appropriate first, and then work on getting roads to get additional people here but to do one before the other is irresponsible,” Bailey said.

In addition to COVID-19 funding and local road projects, Fowler said I-73 would also affect wetlands that help mitigate flooding.

South Carolina’s part of I-73 would run from the Rockingham/Hamlet area, into Marlboro County, and then Dillon County, before intersecting with Interstate 95, and then hitting Highway 22 in the Myrtle Beach/Conway area. 

The price tag for that section is $1.3 billion, but the South Carolina Department of Transportation estimates the cost of the entire interstate is $2.3 billion.

To date, a little more than $116.6 million has been committed to I-73, $96.7 million of that is federal money.

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