South Carolina’s I-73 northern segment reaches milestone

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South Carolina can move forward with plans to build the northern leg of Interstate 73 now that federal officials have approved the environmental review for the project, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced.

“With this piece of I-73 approved, the people of South Carolina are much closer to expanding the region’s economy, increasing tourism and easing congestion,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

Federal officials on Wednesday, Oct. 22, signed the record of decision (ROD), completing an environmental review process that started 39 months ago for the project. Despite accommodating more than 25 state, local and federal regulatory agencies, including the state Departments of Transportation in both North and South Carolina, the time needed for the project’s environmental review was faster than the 50 to 60 months typically needed.

“We can cut red tape without cutting corners to move important transportation projects forward and still safeguard our natural resources,” said Federal Highway Administrator Thomas Madison, who will honor members of the Federal Highway Administration and South Carolina Department of Transportation project team with a special award next month in Washington, D.C., for their work in streamlining the project.

Coupled with approval of the ROD for the southern segment, which was signed on Feb. 8, the ROD signing completed FHWA’s environmental actions on the I-73 corridor from Hamlet, N.C., to the Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach area. SCDOT now is cleared to begin right-of-way acquisition and to engage in public and private financing options that can bring the project to completion more quickly.

South Carolina was the first state to move forward under FHWA’s Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program, which gives the state authority for tolling and allows other states to expand I-73. When completed, the corridor will link the Grand Strand to states to the north.