CHARLESTON, SC (AP) You can attend meetings, go online, take a roadside interview or perhaps mail in a survey if you want your say in where the proposed $2 billion Interstate 73 will be built in South Carolina.
“The public needs a transparent process on this. It’s just too important to the state of South Carolina to come up with any last minute surprises,” said Debbie Harwell, a spokeswoman for the I-73 study.
Highway planners are studying 2,200 sq. mi. (5,698 sq km) in four counties –– Marlboro, Dillon, Marion and Horry –– as they consider routes for the expressway that will one day link the Grand Strand with Michigan.
The highway will provide an easier way to move tourists into Myrtle Beach and another escape route for hurricane evacuations.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) conducted roadside surveys of motorists on roads in Horry County in August.
“We’re trying to get local input and tourist input on where people started from and where their destination is,” Harwell said.
The surveys were brief, taking only about 90 seconds. If traffic began to back up, motorists were handed a survey they could mail back to the department, she said.
In addition, public meetings will be held Sept. 18 in Marion and Sept. 21 in Conway. The first meeting is on a Saturday during the day, the second on a weekday during the late afternoon and evening.
“Everybody ought to be excited and relieved at the process because it is wide open to questions and suggestions and open communication,” said Brad Dean, president and chief executive officer of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Harwell said the meetings will be advertised on billboards and with fliers stuffed in grocery bags in supermarkets.
In addition, folks who want to comment on the expressway can go online to www.i73insc.com and can simply e-mail concerns or thoughts. There also is a project hot line at 866/473-4672 where people can get information.
“It’s the most unprecedented effort DOT has ever made to have a transparent process,” Harwell said. “We want to make sure we hear everything –– all the environmental concerns, all of the traffic concerns all the economic concerns and concerns down to the individual landholder.”
Interstate 73 will travel about 90 miles through South Carolina.
Planners hope to have a draft environmental impact statement completed and hold public hearings on the proposed route by the fall of next year.
They expect to have environmental permits in hand by the fall of 2006.
Although the money for building the highway has not been appropriated, the expressway is expected to be completed within a decade of identifying funds, planners have said.