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Federal Transportation Head: We need to build I-73

On Friday, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters stopped in Myrtle Beach to listen and offer support to the recently restored organization. She left stressing the need for the new Interstate to be built.

After taking time to see some of the highways that a completed I-73 is to relieve, Peters said, "It is time to build I-73."

These words were music to the ears of the 200 or so individuals who came to Myrtle Beach for the organization's first meeting in over a decade. Peters was invited to the meeting by U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C), a strong advocate of the highway.

Peters also informed the group that her agency is committed to pushing forward large regional projects that have a greater impact on larger parts of the nation vs. localized projects that only benefit a few.

The hope of the I-73 Corridor Association is that Peters' visit will show the importance of highway from economic growth to coastal evacuation. This was also the first time delegates from Ohio and Michigan were in attendance. Both states shelved the I-73 project in the 1990s.

Graham believes that a strong six state coalition will make the case for getting funding and building I-73 stronger. Those at the meeting from Ohio and Michigan were surprised at the amount of construction and planning already taken place in South Carolina, North Carolina, and most recently Virginia. The Michigan and Ohio members also pledged to push their respective DOT's to resume planning for the Interstate.

The next plan for the association is to hold a meeting in Washington, D.C. Their goal is to gain more support for the highway from additional influential legislators.

Story:
I-73 wins crucial backer ---Myrtle Beach Sun News

Link:
The revamped I-73/74 Corridor Association Website

Commentary:
So a lot of hoopla for I-73 and I-74. Will Sec. Peters support for the highway help towards the eventual completion? Will there be renewed interest from Ohio and/or Michigan? Wait a few years when the next transportation funding bill is created in 2009. That will be when all the "support" from Federal officials and Senators/Congressmen will either come through or be nothing but lip service.

Senator Graham says that a strong six state lobbying effort will help build the highway. No, a strong six state effort showing their ability to fund and build the highway will help get these funds.

South Carolina has approved the possibility of tolling I-73 to raise the funds for the highway. Plus you have the current SC budget battle that has an annual $5 million of state funding for I-73 hanging in the balance. In the House, Tracy Edge of North Myrtle Beach has increased the yearly allotment from $1 to $6 million per year. However, that extra $5 million has been removed in the Senate's version. As of typing this entry, there has been no resolution on the budget and the I-73 funding within South Carolina.

Plus, you have the still unresolved wetland issue at the Pee Dee Heritage Preserve.

North Carolina is building I-73 and I-74 in various stages. By 2010, about 30 more miles of I-73 and/or I-74 will be opened with the possibility of more being 'converted' from Future Interstate to Interstate. In the article, it states that two miles of I-73 and 19 miles of I-74 are opened. These figures baffle me. Only because of the I-73/74 multiplex in the heart of the state. I'd like to know what the two miles of I-73 are. It is not signed alone anywhere. The only guess I have is the approximate two miles of the Greensboro Outer Loop that is opened that would contain I-73. If that is the case, more of I-73 should open later this year when the Southwest quadrant of the GSO Loop opens to traffic.

North Carolina's biggest problem has been internal funding issues. Many of the I-73/74 projects within the state have been pushed back because the money isn't there.

Virginia just got clearance to build I-73 from Roanoke (I-81) to the NC State Line, but needs to find funding.

West Virginia has parts of the highway built. But many are being built not to full freeway and Interstate Standards.

Ohio and Michigan..........................they have to get the dust of the books first. And who knows when they'll decide just to pay for the dusting service.

The recent meeting was a lot of talk and optimism. And if you haven't had a meeting in over a decade, just having one is a good step. But there is still a long way to go, a lot of obstacles to overcome before substantial progress and funding comes for both Interstates. The 2009 Highway Funding Bill will show just how far I-73/74 has come....or most likely how much further it needs to go.

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