The Sun News has published my past letters to the editor regarding the errors in the “Economic Impact of I-73 in South Carolina” report by Chmura Economics & Analytics. This is the source of the claims that I-73 will create 29,000 jobs and $2 billion in economic activity in the Myrtle Beach area.
Chmura assumed that travel time saved would encourage increased tourism. Chmura's first error was claiming Interstate 73 would save from one to two hours travel time instead of the 20 minutes from the Federal Environmental Impact Study. This resulted in a 367 percent error calculating the increase in tourism due to travel time saved.
The second error compounded the first by assuming that every visitor to Myrtle Beach would arrive via I-73. A $600,000 study paid for by SCDOT on whether travelers would use I-73 as a toll road (spoilers: they wouldn't) found that less than 10 percent of drivers bound for Myrtle Beach would come anywhere near the proposed route of I-73. You can't save time if you don't drive on I-73.
What all this boils down to is that claims of 22,000 permanent jobs that would be created by I-73 are off by a factor of 40. Stated another way, I-73 would create less than 3 percent of the benefits claimed by its promoters.
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Not too long ago, Rep. Tom Rice and Sen. Lindsey Graham met with Transportation Secretary Chao to make their argument for funding I-73 into South Carolina. Rice posted a picture of the occasion on Facebook with the following text:
While we have the I-73 permit in hand, we still need to work on funding. Today U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and I took our case to the top and made the argument for I-73 to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I-73 is an investment with unparalleled benefits, including:
– Jobs: it will create 29,000 new jobs in South Carolina
– Economic Impact: it will add $2 billion to the local economy
– Revenue: it will generate $1 billion in local & state tax revenue
– Safety: It will provide another evacuation route and reduce evacuation times by 11-15 hours
If Rice were to make similar claims in an offering memorandum to entice investors to buy bonds to finance I-73, he might face indictment for financial fraud.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.