News | October 5, 2017

Your iPhone just made a multi-billion dollar interstate project obsolete

Car GPS systems and smart-phone apps use real-time traffic data to route drivers more quickly to destinations like Myrtle Beach, often selecting state roads over interstates. That means the boom in modern mapping technology is diminishing the need for new interstates.

That’s one of the conclusions in a pair of new reports released today that reveal how a decades-old proposal for a massively expensive South Carolina interstate – I-73 – is now outdated and obsolete, and that there are more sensible alternatives.

The reports show a road solution, which is supported by several businesses in the Dillon and Marion county areas, as well as the Dillon mayor and the Dillon County Chamber of Commerce, would be a better use of money.

In his reports, Walter Kulash, a nationally recognized transportation engineer with 30 years experience, reveals a blueprint for “The Grand Strand Expressway” – a cheaper, more comprehensive solution for travelers destined for Myrtle Beach. The Grand Strand Expressway, or “GSX,” would benefit local businesses and communities in a way a new interstate would not.

The backbone of the Grand Strand Expressway would be enhancements and upgrades to U.S. 501 and S.C. 38, already the most common route to the Myrtle Beach area. The enhancements would increase traffic flow to highway speeds for a sliver of the cost of the interstate project, the report said.

The study also shows the feasibility of upgrading two additional corridors to increase travel efficiency:

  • S.C. 9 (69 miles from I-95 near Dillon, to S.C. 22 near Conway).
  • The “74 Connector” (38 miles from U.S. 74 in Whiteville, N.C. to S.C. 31).

These “Grand Strand Expressway” and related local road improvements could be accomplished for much less than the projected price of I-73, which its backers say will need tolling and additional taxes to cover its costs.

One of Kulash’s reports concludes that the enhancement options would provide drivers choices in travel routes. The routes would be part of a “well-connected multi-lane highway network,” while the I-73 option “adds enormous redundant capacity in a corridor already well served by a multi-lane highway.”

Because the projects highlighted in Kulash’s reports improve existing local infrastructure, they make financial sense to the business and civic leaders in the region.

Why would we waste billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a road we don’t need?” said Todd Davis, mayor of Dillon. “We can get the same benefit from the Grand Strand Expressway, at a fraction of the cost of a new interstate.

Johnnie Luehrs, Dillon County Chamber of Commerce executive director, agreed.

We don’t want to lose what we have,” Luehrs said. “The proposed I-73 would completely bypass Dillon businesses.

The proposed I-73 would run roughly parallel to the GSX, and in some spots come within just a few miles.

The interstate backers have not identified a funding source to pay for the interstate.

I-73 as an interstate from Michigan to South Carolina was first proposed decades ago but several states along the projected path have abandoned the idea. Instead, they are upgrading existing corridors. Only North and South Carolina, representing 20 percent of the plan, are pursing I-73 segments, according to one of the reports.