“Grand Strand Expressway” is a smarter alternative to flawed I-73 plan in SC

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce officials want a new and expensive interstate to get tourists into the resort city, but there’s a cheaper and easier alternative they should consider. (© Myrtle Beach Resorts)

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is pushing for a new interstate – I-73 – that could cost taxpayers and drivers more than $2 billion, even though there is a more sensible solution that could be built for a sliver of that cost.

Upgrading Routes 38 and 501 and turning them into the “Grand Strand Expressway” would accomplish Myrtle Beach’s goal of moving more visitors more efficiently to the resort. It could be completed decades earlier and for less than $150 million.

Building the Grand Strand Expressway would also avoid destroying wetlands that clean water for South Carolina's creeks and streams and store floodwaters from storms..

“This is an idea that could save billions of dollars for taxpayers, and still do everything Myrtle Beach wants,” said Senior Attorney Catherine Wanamaker. “It’s certainly understandable that Myrtle Beach businesses want to get more tourists into town, to spend more money, but that shouldn’t come on the backs of all of South Carolina taxpayers. And especially not when there are so many other pressing needs in the state.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for the interstate construction, but the far bigger hurdle is coming up with the money. I-73 proponents in Myrtle Beach told The State newspaper they might have to cover the cost of the interstate with taxes and tolls.

I-73 has been proposed – but largely unfunded – for 30 years. It was originally dreamed up as an interstate from Michigan to South Carolina, but was too costly to consider. Most states along the proposed route have effectively abandoned the idea. Myrtle Beach officials are pushing only for a self-serving 43-mile stretch of the interstate starting at I-95.

I-73 as planned would run parallel to the 38 and 501 corridor and, in some places, the roads would be within a few miles of each other. Turing 38 and 501 into the Grand Strand Expressway is faster, better, and a cheaper way to accomplish Myrtle Beach’s goals.

“Even if South Carolina had unlimited money, this interstate plan still wouldn’t make sense,” Wannamaker said. “The state must be smart about what projects to tackle, and how to tackle them. The Grand Strand Expressway is a smart solution to Myrtle Beach’s wants. A new interstate is not.”

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