By Mayor J. Todd Davis
It’s no secret I’m an outspoken advocate for creating a thriving downtown in Dillon.
Our City is poised for both an economic surge and a big boost in the quality of life for families. The planned inland port will bring jobs and prosperity. At the same time, a redevelopment of our historic downtown will hopefully breathe new life into the city.
Our efforts to improve downtown electrical service and to plant attractive landscaping are vital in bringing in new retail stores. We’re providing matching funds for businesses to improve their historic facades. Dillon is moving aggressively to fill the empty storefronts with retailers and restaurants that will make our downtown a destination once again.
We’ve worked hard to keep our golf course in shape, and even harder to make our wellness center a vital part of life here.
And finally, we’re pushing for both a hotel and new apartments in downtown to bring back to the district what it once had, a vibrant population of neighbors and visitors who, in turn, spend the kind of money we need to keep moving forward.
With all of this on Dillon’s horizon, it is not the time to support any effort that jeopardizes our future.
That’s why I am opposed to plans pushed by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to build Interstate 73 and connect it to I-95. There is no purpose for this interstate other than to funnel travelers and their wallets directly to Myrtle Beach and bypass so many of the local communities – Dillon, Latta, Sellers — that rely on visitors’ dollars to meet our budgets.
If that interstate becomes a reality, Dillon businesses along Hwy 301 and Radford Boulevard will take a hit. That means less tax money to continue the improvements we’ve worked on so diligently. It would mean a step back just as we’re moving forward. I would doubt the new Cookout restaurant would be planting off Radford Blvd right now if they knew traffic would be diverted miles from their location.
For obvious reasons, Myrtle Beach businesses have latched onto a prohibitively expensive, decades-old plan for I-73 that most other states have long abandoned. The I-73 proposal for South Carolina is expected to cost anywhere between $2 billion and $4 billion, depending on the length of the pavement. The only plan to pay for it so far is an extension of taxes, plus tolls.
Myrtle Beach business leaders are refusing to consider a better solution only because it won’t have a shiny “interstate” designation.
What Dillon Town Council supports – and what our Chamber of Commerce supports – is a more efficient and more economical plan to widen existing routes 38 and 501 to highway standards. That could meet the same objective, at a fraction of the cost.
That plan, called the “Grand Strand Expressway,” also supports enhancements to SC Route 9 as part of what the experts call a “well-connected multi-lane highway network” that would be a winning proposal for everyone.
This solution delivers visitors to the coast quickly and efficiently, and without strangling the economies of small cities and towns along the way.
The economies of South Carolina and of Dillon have come a long way in the past few years, but not far enough to spend billions on an unneeded interstate, and certainly not far enough that the businesses in Dillon could absorb a hit.
So for the sake of cities like Dillon, I will vigorously oppose any efforts to build I-73. And I will wholeheartedly support all efforts to keep our economy moving forward with innovative solutions like the “Grand Strand Expressway.”
I could not be more proud of what Dillon’s committed citizens, businesses and civic leaders have done to begin restoring this gem of a city. There is a lot more in store for us. I’m going to work every day to make sure our progress isn’t thwarted and our citizens aren’t shortchanged.
Dillon deserves a voice in South Carolina’s transportation future. The “Grand Strand Expressway” solution is one that must be considered.
By Mayor J. Todd Davis