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I-73 advocates continue to support completing the proposed interstate as a whole, believing completion of this interstate will spur economic activity, create jobs in areas with high unemployment rates, boost tourism and save lives.
It is estimated that I-73 could create thousands of jobs and draw new industry into some of the most economically depressed counties in South Carolina. I-73 will also serve international commerce, as it potentially connects a major port (Charleston, SC) to the Canadian border. Though I-73 does not travel to Charleston, discussions are underway to determine whether an inland port could be located in/near Marion, SC, enabling the South Carolina ports system to become truly intermodal. If this is completed, I-73 runs in Marion, SC and would become a major thoroughfare of port distribution.
National trends clearly indicate the need for improved roadways to facilitate future growth in the tourism industry. While the more rural counties look to I-73 as an economic tool to draw business and industry, the Grand Strand can expect to expound on its product of tourism if the interstate is built, according to Dr. Donald Schunk, research economist at Coastal Carolina University. Myrtle Beach and the rest of the Grand Strand in Horry County is the central cog in South Carolina’s top industry: tourism. The area pumps about $15 billion year into the state’s economy. Schunk said I-73 would allow for 100,000 or more visitors a year to Horry County’s beaches and estimated the additional visitors would spend $60 million annually. About 63 percent of Horry County’s employment is tourism-related, according to the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.
During the peak summer season, the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina hosts as many as 500,000 visitors per day. It is estimated that 94% of those visitors drive to the area and 70% of those drive-in visitors come from outside the state, traveling on I-95. When combined with the permanent populations of Horry County (238,000) and Georgetown County (103,000) it is apparent that this region has in excess of 800,000 people daily. In the event of a severe tropical storm or a hurricane, it will take 2-3 days to evacuate the coastal area. If a storm were to strengthen, speed up and/or change course, 2-3 days may not be available. Lives could be lost, due to the fact that the area is primarily dependent upon one evacuation route: Highway 501, a local thoroughfare that is 4-lane and not sufficient to evacuate such large numbers of people.