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Federal permits granted for construction of Interstate 73

June 20, 2017

COLUMBIA — A long-awaited hurdle appears to have been cleared with the approval of federal construction permits to begin work on an interstate that aims to connect the Grand Strand with northern Michigan.

But Myrtle Beach area officials still need to raise the money necessary to build the long-discussed Interstate 73 before construction can begin, state transportation officials have said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., on Tuesday announced that the Army Corps of Engineers issued the permit for the interstate.

The federal approval came after a proposed agreement last year to preserve Gunter’s Island in exchange for the estimated 325 acres of South Carolina wetlands that would be destroyed building the highway. Gunter’s island is comprised of swamps, forest and streams that is home to animals such as black bears and wild turkeys in the middle of Horry County.

“The opportunity that I-73 will bring to the 7th District is truly unparalleled and now that we have the permit in hand we can begin construction and see this project come to light,” Rice said in a statement.

But S.C. Department of Transportation Director Christy Hall told The Post and Courier last week that the burden was on the Myrtle Beach area to raise the necessary money to build the road.

“To date, much of the preliminary design and environmental work has been funded through federal earmarks and grants,” Hall said. “As the environmental work begins to draw to a close, the proposed project will be poised to advance to construction in the future as the local officials are successful in securing additional funding for the project.”

A study completed by SCDOT in May determined costs for the state’s portion of I-73 could range from about $2.8 billion if built this year to $3.4 billion if construction is delayed until 2025.