Last night Horry County Council voted unanimously to cancel the county’s I-73 contract with SCDOT.
As the Grand Strand Daily‘s Paul Gable wrote, “The blame for the cancellation of the I-73 agreement can be laid directly at the feet of Myrtle Beach and the other cities that joined in the lawsuit and refused to accept virtually the same settlement they [those cities] are now considering.”
Carolina Forest resident, Rich Malzone said, “I’m glad that this I-73 contract is dead. If the tourism lobby wants it so bad, then let them pay for it out of the TDF tax. I would much rather see S.C. 31 extended into North Carolina to eventually hook up with Highway 74 and Interstate 40. This would make Wilmington more accessible and give both tourists and locals more options for northern evacuations. I-20 should somehow be connected to the area giving us a southern option as well.”
WHY HAVE CHEAPER AND BETTER OPTIONS NOT BEEN CONSIDERED?
The City of Myrtle Beach Factor
The City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber have each held a dominant say in all things Horry County over the past 40 years.
High profile lawsuits between Myrtle Beach and the county, coupled with last night’s elections in Surfside Beach show how “out of favor” the two entities have become among local residents.
BUILD WHERE THE TRAFFIC IS HEADED
As businessmen, tourists, and locals have noted, tourism in the City of Myrtle Beach is in decline. The city has serious, long existing, negative brand issues.
I-73 has been touted as a work-around for Highway 501. In truth, traffic issues on Highway 501 exist only around Carolina Forest and the City of Conway. Most of this traffic is local traffic.
WHERE TOURISTS WANT TO GO
The tourist population increasingly wants to go to North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach and Pawleys Island.
EXPANDING HIGHWAY 9
Expanding Highway 9 from Green Sea to Dillon, S.C. where it meets I-95 can be done for pennies on the dollar as compared to building I-73.
Running Highway 9 North to Chadburn, N.C. where it would meet with Highway 74 is another cheap option.
Said S.C. District 104 Representative William Bailey, “Understanding that the Highway system in Horry County needs to be improved, it may be time to give the widening of Highway 9 consideration. The connectivity to the inland port in Dillon and the possibility of Highway 31 giving us an easy connection to the ports in North Carolina may be just what we need.”
Horry County Councilman Harold Worley agreed, “Extending Highway 9 to I-95 or running Highway 9 north to Chadburn are highly viable options.”
“With the Chadburn option, we are only talking about paving 4 miles of road there. We previously met with the NCDOT folks and they were highly in favor of this,” Worley added.
Numbers continue to show that North Myrtle Beach is increasingly where the tourists want to vacation.
Either Highway 9 option gets tourists to the coast faster than building I-73.
Highway 378 to Highway 544
Anyone who has been stuck on Highway 544 heading east at 2 p.m. on a Saturday knows. What has been called the “pot hole” highway deserves to receive the promises the S.C. State Legislature made when they passed the 12 cents ongoing gas tax. The state tax on gas increases 2 cents per year until it ultimately reaches 12 cents per gallon.
S.C. legislators made promises to fix the pot holes along roads like Highway 544 when the tax passed. If you travel the road near Coastal Carolina University, it is clear that this promise has not been kept to date.
The route tourists prefer
Rather than choosing Highway 501 to Myrtle Beach, tourists are increasingly taking Highway 378 to Highway 501 to Highway 544 into Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach and Pawleys Island.
Construction funding for expanding Highway 378 into a four lane road is already approved. The pot hole fixes for repaving Highway 544 need to be kept now. The money has been collected and is sitting in the SCDOT coffers.
Myrtle Beach is no longer the preferred destination of Grand Strand Tourists. The city is in decline.
The dollars are largely in place to improve the roads leading to vacation destination towns tourists are visiting most.
As writer Paul Gable’s article expresses, Horry County Council was wise to cancel the I-73 SCDOT contract.
A $2.4 billion venture is too pricey. The destination City of Myrtle Beach needs serious attention before investing those sizable tax dollars.