Supporters of Interstate 73 recognize the many benefits it will bring to the Myrtle Beach area. One primary benefit is the 7,000-plus construction jobs and 22,000-plus post-construction jobs it will create.
Having interstate access will help to attract new industries, grow tourism and provide an alternative evacuation route. For these reasons, I-73 is a high priority for South Carolina.
But we should not overlook the importance of I-73 in other states. Eventually, I-73 will stretch from the Canadian-Michigan border to Highway 22 in Horry County. As much as we are excited about the potential here in South Carolina, we are very encouraged about the progress other states are making on I-73.
On Feb. 23, the Virginia State Senate unanimously passed a resolution to approve funding for the creation of a two-year transportation subcommittee to study construction of I-73. The committee will be comprised of senators from the committees on transportation and local government, as well as citizens from the region.
The committee will also invite legislative and business representatives from the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. Once the work is finished in 2015, a report will be presented to the General Assembly detailing its findings on how Virginia can best accomplish the construction of I-73 in a timely manner.
This is a positive step forward for all of us excited about the prospects this roadway can offer to the region.
And we’re equally thrilled with some of the developments happening in other states. In North Carolina, work began in January on the construction of a new freeway and upgrading of N.C. 68 to an I-73 Connector. Completion on this portion is expected soon.
In West Virginia, work continues on a 3-mile section of the King Coal Highway in Mingo County. This endeavor is part of the public/private partnership that Alpha Coal Company has with the state of West Virginia. The ultimate goal of the section is to hook to the 12-mile portion from Red Jacket to Horsepen Mountain that was completed in 2010. We anticipate this new 3-mile section to be finished by the end of this year.
We are pleased with the progress I-73 has made in other states, but much remains to be done. As Congress considers the next highway reauthorization bill, we will work with our counterparts in other states to ensure I-73 becomes a reality.
The writer represents Myrtle Beach in the S.C. Legislature and is board chairman of the National I-73/I-74/I-75 Association.