The I-73 project that is proposed to extend from Rockingham, N.C. to S.C. 22 just west of Myrtle Beach will result in more negative consequences than positive if built. Unfortunately the propaganda surrounding the project has helped push it forward and I do not believe that the general populace is fully aware of the consequences of the project.
Just the southern segment of I-73 from I-95 to S.C. 22 will affect a minimum of 313 acres of wetlands and 22 stream crossings. There is an environmental and economic toll to destroying these wetlands. Wetlands have been shown to slow water momentum, reduce flood heights, and allow for ground water recharge. In hurricane-prone South Carolina these attributes cannot be left out of the equation. One acre of wetland can store up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwaters. One reason floods have become more costly is that over half of the wetlands in the U.S. have been drained or filled.
I also question the fiscal responsibility of the project. The recent Miley report cost/benefit analysis of the I-73 project compared with continuous upgrading of the existing U.S. 501 highway demonstrates that the same benefits of access to the Grand Strand and job creation will occur at a tenth of the proposed I-73 project cost. Not to mention that we could do it now and help those unemployed now and not wait until 2030 or beyond.
Undoubtedly the new road will divert travelers away from Florence and other communities in the Pee Dee. Those same travelers that exit in Florence, for example, to pick up U.S. 501 and stop here for dinner, or coffee, or travel to the downtown that is on its way to revitalization would be diverted to the proposed interstate, missing the Florence corridor altogether.
Although new infrastructure in general is advantageous for the economy, not every new road is for the better and other options to achieve the same benefits are available.
The writer lives in Florence.