Firm finds recent I-73 studies ‘misleading’

A recent study that found that updating existing roadways would be more cost effective than building Interstate 73 is said to be misleading, according to a recent review requested by the Grand Strand Business Alliance.

The study in question, commissioned by the Coastal Conservation League, found that improving Highway 38 and U.S. 501 – referred to as the Grand Strand Expressway – would be more economical than the construction of a new interstate that in several locations would run parallel to existing roads.

But the review, completed by Parsons Brinkerhoff consulting firm, said that the study – as well as another study commissioned by the Coastal Conservation League – is not credible. The firm reviewed four studies in all, including ones commissioned by the North Eastern Strategic Alliance and Dr. Don Schunk. The consulting firm determined that the NESA and Schunk studies are credible.

“(Parsons Brinckerhoff’s) review provided an eye opening look at much of the I-73 research that’s out there. Our takeaway today was that the two studies provided by the Coastal Conservation League lie outside of a ‘credible range’ and the research they’re providing is misleading,” said Mike Wooten, chairman of the Grand Strand Business Alliance, in a press release.

The review was presented in a private review meeting to are leaders Thursday morning in Florence, according to the release.

Nancy Cave, the northeast office director for the league, said in a statement that the review is an attempt by Myrtle Beach politicians and special interest groups to avoid serious consideration of less costly alternatives to a multi-billion interstate.

According to the review, the league’s proposed Grand Strand Expressway does not meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials industry standards and is not comparable to an interstate.

Cave said that the league never implied their alternative was to be considered an interstate.

“We have never suggested that the 38/501 corridor be upgraded to interstate standards, we don’t need a six-lane road, an upgraded four-lane road meets the purpose and need of getting tourists to Myrtle Beach,” she said in a statement.

Wooten said the alliance commissioned the review because the studies provided contrasting forecasts.

“Because of these conflicting reports, we simply wanted to commission an independent study by a firm … in order to find out if we were being provided the most accurate information regarding I-73,” he said. “We trust that publication of the Parsons Brinkerhoff report will put an end to the ‘my study is better than your study’ saga that continues to confuse the real issues and we can move forward with this vital project.”

A complete copy of review can be found online at www.i73.com.