U.S. 501 business owners may soon become a rare breed if Myrtle Beach political forces have their way. My parents established Sparky’s Fireworks on U.S. 501 in Marion over 20 years ago. As the current store manager I was hoping to one day carry on the family business my parents have worked so hard for. I find nothing to be desired in the building of an interstate that will destroy this business and the livelihoods of the people we employ.
Sparky’s is not the only business that will be negatively affected or shut down as a result of Interstate 73. Every business along U.S. 501 that depends on tourism traffic will lose revenue, and every other gas station and restaurant along the way to Florence and en route to I-95 will be hurt. We depend on the tourist traffic U.S. 501 provides in order to pay our bills. Are we willing to sacrifice the jobs and the sense of community that these small businesses provide? Has anyone read the history of Route 66?
Politicians tout all sorts of good reasons to build Interstate 73. They claim 22,000 jobs will be created within 20 years of construction. I find that number to be very hard to believe. Ask them how many existing jobs will be lost between now and then. They say it will be 15 minutes faster to Myrtle Beach. People drive for hours to get to Myrtle Beach. Are they going to turn away if we don’t make their trip 15 minutes shorter? As a recent after-thought, proponents are now pushing the notion that hurricane evacuations will be faster. How often do we have major hurricanes and mandatory evacuations? Besides, warnings are typically several days in advance, giving us plenty of time to leave. It seems to me they’re coming up with a lot of excuses to continue an unnecessary project. Do they have something personal to gain?
If I am wrong and our local politicians do care about my family business and countless others like ours, then they must consider in depth the proposed Grand Strand Expressway. The GSX offers many of the same benefits as an interstate, but without destroying established small businesses, the environment, and people’s homes. The Grand Strand Expressway can be built quicker and at one-tenth the cost of the multi-billion dollar Interstate 73. Like I-73, the GSX can provide a quicker evacuation route, faster transit, and increased job opportunities. By simply upgrading and repairing our existing roads and bridges we can create jobs, help people keep existing jobs, preserve hundreds of acres of natural wildlife in local areas, and save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
If completed, I-73 will negatively impact current small business owners on U.S. 501, the environment, and the local citizens who will be forced to deal with a major interstate in what was once their back yard. The Grand Strand Expressway is a less expensive alternative with many more advantages than I-73.
The writer lives in Marion.