While hosting a roundtable discussion on President Trump’s proposed infrastructure improvement plan Tuesday, Governor Henry McMaster turned to South Carolina’s Secretary of Transportation sitting next to him and asked for an update on the proposed Interstate 73.
SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall told him the plan is ready to move forward once the state gets the rest of the money to pay for it.
“With federal earmark funds that have flowed towards the project plus a little bit of the money that’s allocated towards the project from the (State) Infrastructure Bank, the project has basically gotten to a point of ready to move forward pending full funding,” she said. “We’re basically poised and ready to move forward.”
She said options for that funding gap are still being discussed at the local level, “since it’s basically a locally-driven project.” Among those options Horry County officials are considering: making I-73 a toll road, soliciting private investment, or using local sales tax and hospitality tax revenues.
“It’s still not enough to close the gap so likely some private financing would be needed to fully deliver that project,” Hall told the governor. “Currently the state DOT has not committed any dollars toward that project and it’s not currently under our long-range plan to allocate any state funds towards.”
Hall said the Horry County area governments “indicated willingness to put forward some of the local sales tax dollars to support the project.”
She said the partnership between state and local governments and private investors would appeal to President Trump because similar partnerships are part of his American infrastructure improvement plan.
“Basically it’s ready to potentially be a strong competer for a public-private partnership as indicated or as referenced by this infrastructure proposal by the President,” she said. “We do believe that it would fit the type of model that’s being recommended by the administration for how to advance significant projects with private investment going forward.”
The Coastal Conservation League environmental group filed a lawsuit which challenges the decisions by the Army Corps of Engineers to approve permits for the interstate.
McMaster said I-73 is “badly needed,” but others at the roundtable suggested the state should take care of repairing the roads it already has before building another one.