By Betsy Finklea
A roundtable discussion about I-73 was held at Florence-Darlington Technical College on Friday.
LaHood said that I-73 will be an economic corridor which will held to create jobs, small businesses, and opportunities for the area.
He said the interstate will become an economic engine. LaHood also said that the transportation stimulus money has worked in America.
LaHood stressed that it was important that they get their transportation bill passed.
Brad Dean, president of the National I-73 Association, said that Myrtle Beach is the only major national vacation destination without interstate access. He said while he sees I-73 as a vehicle for job creation, he also saw it as a means of evacuation. He said I-73 would greatly help with evacuation efforts during hurricane season and could save lives.
“The interstate project is a critical need for us,” Dean said, who asked what can be done to position I-73 as a regional and national priority.
LaHood said that I-73 supporters need to make sure that I-73 is a priority for their delegation and that will make it a priority to the Department of Transportation.
“When it becomes the delegation’s priority, it becomes out priority,” said LaHood, who said they take their cues from Congress.
Responding to a question from Rep. Alan Clemmons (Dist. No. 107-R-Horry County) along the same lines as Dean’s question, LaHood said that a multi-state group of governors/delegations with a common theme, common plan, and common priorities could be a strong voice in Washington.
Rep. Doug Jennings pointed out that every member of the House and Senate have voted for legislation on I-73. He said South Carolina legislators understand the statewide and national significance of the road. he said that the legislature has also taken a strong stand on tolling.
Sen. Kent Williams said that with two of the counties he represents boasting the highest unemployment numbers in the state, he sees I-73 as an economic engine for the region and a better way to attract industries and businesses. He also noted that the actual construction of I-73 will bring jobs to the area.
SCDOT Commission Chairman Danny Isaac said that South Carolina needs to stay the course, work together, and be committed to the I-73 project.
Deputy Secretary John Porcari said that transportation and economic development are two sides of the same coin.
When asked when I-73 would be completed, Chairman Isaac said right now they were focusing on getting started in the very near future.