MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Governor Henry McMaster traveled to Myrtle Beach Monday to announce he will recommend the state dedicate $300 million dollars toward the building of I-73.
“I believe I-73 would be a transformative component in South Carolina’s future economic prosperity,” Governor Henry McMaster said.
The governor made the announcement surrounded by dozens of local, state and area leaders.
US Congressman Tom Rice says he has been fighting this battle for a decade. “Finally, after all this time, we’re shovel ready,” Rice said at the announcement.
Rice added that “this will give us an opportunity to attract diversified industry. We need to protect tourism but we need more industry with steady high paying jobs.”
Gov. McMaster said the completion of the project is expected to create about 29,000 new jobs.
McMaster recommended South Carolina lawmakers use money from the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan funds and the 2022 budget. He said the $300 million initial spending would build six miles from I-95 to Highway 501.
McMaster talked about hurricane Florence and said the interstate would bring a much-needed evacuation route. “There never has been a better example of why we need to build I-73,” he said.
“Not only are we looking to evacuate the people during a natural disaster but much significant higher population volumes, trying to get the people out in a quick and expedited and efficient manner…an interstate connection is absolutely essential to making that happen,” SC Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said.
According to Hall, they conducted research and found that I-73 would improve travel times in the area by 30 percent. Leaders say that’s needed especially with the coast growing rapidly with residents and tourists.
“Not only is the Myrtle Beach area one of the top tourist destinations in the country but Horry County is the fastest growing county in the state and the fact is that we have no interstate connectivity…but that’s going to change,” City of Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said.
Director of SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Duane Parrish said, “the bottom line, the grand strand is the heartbeat of tourism in south Carolina. Its critical that we have another artery that leads to that heartbeat.”
Economic development officials in Horry Could say Interstate 73 could have a major impact on the interior part of the county if it comes to be.
“You think of what an interstate would do not really just for Myrtle Beach specifically, but Horry County as a whole and really the surrounding area,” Director of Economic Development and Government Relations for the Conway Chamber of Commerce Devin Parks said. “Anytime you have a brand new interstate coming in, that pumps in new jobs. You have industrial parks popping up, commercial real estate. The more jobs you have, the more people you have living here.”
The proposed highway would run from the Rockingham, North Carolina area, through Marlboro and Dillon Counties, before crossing I-95 and then going into Highway 22 in Horry County. The price tag for that area is 1.3 billion dollars.
“We usually can’t recruit companies that are looking for 2,000 jobs because the larger companies are not going to locate where there is not an interstate,” said Sandy Davis, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.
The state funds McMaster hopes to receive from the state will need to be approved by legislators. They also need federal funds to complete the entirety of 1-73.
“I’m also hopeful that the state’s commitment will strengthen the position of our congressional delegation as they work to secure federal funding for I-73,” Governor McMaster said.
The cost of the entire interstate would be 2.3 billion dollars.
State Representative Case Brittain of Myrtle Beach is also the Chairman of the National I-73,74, and 75 Corridor Association. He said he plans to make multiple trips to DC to make sure federal funds come in.