The League of Women Voters of South Carolina believes it is time for South Carolina’s state and federal leadership to drop consideration of the proposed I-73 project and focus instead on repairing the existing road system and funding roads that have demonstrated statewide economic value like I-26.

Recently the Coastal Conservation League released “An Economic Analysis of I-73 and the Grand Strand Expressway (GSX) Alternative.”

This study, by Miley and Associates, determined that S.C. 38 and U.S. 501, dubbed the Grand Strand Expressway, can be upgraded at one-tenth the cost of a new interstate while improving access and facilitating tourism on the Grand Strand.

The study went on to show that the benefit-to-cost ratio of I-73 is a negative 0.26, while the benefit/cost ratio of 38/501 is a positive 1.4. The Miley report notes that public finance decision criteria recommend against projects with a ratio less than 1.0, like I-73.

Miley used the comprehensive transportation model TREDIS to calculate the benefit-to-cost ratio.

The TREDIS model is used by state transportation departments across the country to determine the viability of a proposed project. Adopting such a decision-making process in South Carolina would go a long way toward taking the politics out of road building.

The Miley Report is one of three independent studies that have looked at the practicality of upgrading an existing road corridor versus building a new interstate. The three reports conclude:

1) Upgrading the S.C. 38/U.S. 501 corridor is a viable alternative to a new interstate.

2) Upgrading 38/501 impacts significantly less wetlands than the proposed I-73 and has no stream crossings.

3) Upgrading 38/501 can be done at one-tenth the cost of building I-73.

So why do our politicians continue to support a new interstate? The proposed I-73 has no funding plan and no permits.

The jobs and economic development promised by politicians are 20 years away at the earliest, and that is assuming the interstate is built.

I-73 can’t be built without federal funding, and the 2012 transportation bill eliminates earmarks, the mechanisms to fund specific road projects. So why do our elected officials continue to promote an unaffordable, unnecessary interstate?

Both our state and federal legislators have been quoted supporting fiscal responsibility here and in Washington. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina asks the following questions:

1) What is fiscally responsible about supporting a $2.4 billion interstate when there is no funding?

2) What is fiscally responsible about throwing taxpayer dollars at a project that reports say is unnecessary?

3) What is fiscally responsible about promoting an interstate with a negative benefit-to-cost ratio?

The ultimate answer is that constructing I-73 is not fiscally responsible. The League of Women Voters believes it is time for our politicians to stop supporting an unnecessary and expensive road project and focus on the business at hand — fixing our crumbling road system, upgrading where needed and building where there is demonstrated economic value with adequate and ready funding.

Barbara Zia

Co-President

League of Women Voters

of South Carolina

Azimuth Court

Mount Pleasant

This letter was also signed by Peggy Brown, co-president, and Susan Richards, vice president of community relations, of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.