Throwback Thursday: Fake numbers to support I-73 construction

September 12, 2019

Inside Insight

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i-73

Earlier this week, The Nerve reported that the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank board, which includes Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, discussed expanding interstates through the STIB. This week’s throwback deals with a multibillion-dollar interstate construction project that lawmakers (including Leatherman, the longtime Senate Finance Committee chairman) have pushed for years – the South Carolina portion of I-73, which would stretch from North Carolina to Myrtle Beach.

I-73 supporters for years have relied on a 2011 report commissioned by a Florence-based economic development group, of which Leatherman is a board member. As the story linked below explores, this study’s claims and assumptions are highly questionable, but it hasn’t stopped project backers from gleefully spreading major economic growth predictions based on the report.

Incidentally, the I-73 construction project is facing a potential major funding setback. Horry County, currently under contract with SCDOT to construct the county’s segment of I-73, recently lost a big portion of the revenue planned for the project. If the county cannot resolve the funding issue in the next few months, the contract could be canceled.

I-73: One giant step forward, same old error

Analyst says it’s all been a costly mistake

When it comes to spending and infrastructure, one of South Carolina’s great white whales rose from the deep with news last week that the Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit to begin work on the South Carolina leg of I-73. Ultimately, the interstate highway could take motorists from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula straight down to Myrtle Beach.

The permit covers the whole state length, slicing across its northeastern corner, starting near Bennettsville. Construction could begin within two years, supporters say, on a project first contemplated in 1982.

The southern half alone, linking I-95 to the Conway Bypass, is estimated to cost more than $1 billion, with total costs estimated now to reach as high as $4 billion.

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