Environmental regulators say they have received more than 1,000 comments from the public on a proposed interstate that would connect Myrtle Beach with I-95.
The Army Corps of Engineers closed its public comment period Monday for a permit that is needed before Interstate 73 could begin construction. The agency said it received more than 1,000 comments on the environmental impact permit, which would allow the destruction of 4,600 linear feet of streams and more than 320 acres of wetlands during construction. In exchange, the state Department of Transportation would protect a 6,100-acre parcel of land known as “Gunter’s Island” to offset that damage.
Corps officials will review the comments. The Charleston District’s top engineer will make the final decision later this year on whether to agree with agency staff or reject the permit. However, approval is expected after state officials negotiated the inclusion of Gunter’s Island in their application. SCDOT would only buy the property if the Corps of Engineers approves the application.
Even if approval comes, however, the project would still be years away at best. Department of Transportation officials have not made I-73 a priority in recent years and the more than $1 billion project remains stalled due to a lack of funding.
Recognizing a lack of state enthusiasm, supporters are floating the idea of local funding by making I-73 a toll route to help pay off its construction. That plan would require financial help from Horry County.
Opponents of the project argue the expensive plan for an entirely new interstate is unnecessary. Instead, they favor a plan to widen most of US 501 into more of a parkway from Dillon County into Myrtle Beach to handle heavy summer traffic the region receives.