I-73 Myths and Reality
By Paul Gable
A few days ago we were treated to reports of a new I-73 study by Parsons Brinckerhoff commissioned by the Grand Strand Business Alliance.
Local media reported that the new study found two previous studies commissioned by the Coastal Conservation League, advocating an upgraded expressway link to I-95, not credible. It further reported two previous studies completed by the Northeast Strategic Alliance and Dr. Don Schunk of CCU, advocating for construction of I-73, were credible.
Not really. The Parsons Brinckerhoff study questioned the cost of the CCL study as being too low, said a four-lane upgraded expressway would not be comparable in capacity to a six-lane interstate and performed some literary gymnastics with benefit-cost analyses and economic development benefits for the differing studies.
A major point in the Parsons Brinckerhoff study is the estimated cost of building I-73, $1.3 billion – $1.6 billion, vs. the CCL study cost of $147 million, which Parsons Brinckerhoff raised to $190 – $210 million.
Whether you use the CCL estimate of $147 million to upgrade the SC38/US501 corridor or the Parsons Brinkerhoff estimate of $210 million does not matter. Neither approaches the current estimated cost of $1.4 billion to build I-73 from the I-95 interchange in Dillon to Myrtle Beach.
In a time of attempting to close budget gaps and desires for at least stable taxes and reduced government spending, which alternative makes more sense?
The Parsons Brinckerhoff study assumes the traditional government split of 80/20 federal government to state/local government funding to fund I-73 construction. Does anyone reasonably think an I-73 link from I-95 to Myrtle Beach is going to get over $1.1 billion in funding from the federal government in these economic times?
Would a Republican S.C. Congressional delegation pledged to no tax increase, reduced government spending and balanced budgets even advocate for such funding from the federal government?
The state bond issue, that Horry County’s Danny Isaac tried to put together in his last months as chairman of the SCDOT commission, to fund an I-95/I-73 interchange in Dillon, is now dead. There is no funding in the foreseeable future coming from the state.
It doesn’t matter. The Myrtle Beach Mafia, a group that excels at getting other people to fund their wishes, has a better plan. They want YOU to pay for I-73, just like YOU, who live or buy anything in Myrtle Beach, are paying for their marketing expenses with the Tourism Sales Tax.
The plan is to have Horry County council extend the hospitality tax, after bonds for RIDE I and RIDE II are paid off, to pay for I-73. Isn’t that great? Another project where the county holds the liability and pays it off with taxpayer dollars while the asset goes to the state’s credit.
But that’s hospitality tax, the tourists pay that right? Yes, but so do you every time you buy a drink at a convenience store, eat at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chik-Fil-A, and the like, go the movies or buy something from the deli in your local food store among other activities.
At least as much, and probably more, hospitality tax is paid by locals as tourists and we pay it 365 days a year.
Even if I-73 would bring more tourists to the Grand Strand, creating jobs and improving business income, a very doubtful proposition, what would be done with increased traffic once it gets east of the Intracoastal Waterway? Traffic jams going north and south are already a normal part of the summer. It would only get worse.
If you want I-73, be willing to pay for it with tax dollars for 20 years at least. If not, raise your voice and tell the Myrtle Beach Mafia, Chamber members and all the other intertwined groups who claim to need I-73 so much to spend some of their own money for a change and pay for it themselves.
Read the latest study and check out some of the other propaganda at the I-73 website: http://www.i73.com/docs/ParsonsBrinckerhoffFINAL.pdf