By Paul Gable
The Grand Strand evacuated Zone A yesterday in preparation of the oncoming Hurricane Dorian.
Zone A includes all properties east of U.S. 17, Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. In other words, the major portion of hotels along the Grand Strand and those permanent residents who evacuated.
The evacuation went smoothly – no major traffic jams on the routes out and no sitting in an idling car on the highways for hours at a time.
I personally drove to Myrtle Beach at 11:30 a.m. yesterday morning along S.C. 22 and back just after 3 p.m. Traffic going west on S.C. 22 on my trip in was the heaviest I have ever seen on that highway and I have lived here 15 years before that road was built.
Although the traffic was heavy, it was moving slowly but steadily and the traffic at the on ramp from S.C. 31 was about one mile long but moving.
When I went home, going west on S.C. 22 at three o’clock, there was no traffic to speak of all the way to Hwy 90 where I exited.
I have been told by locals who travelled U.S. 501 and Hwy 544, the same conditions prevailed – heavy traffic moving slow but steady and gone by mid-afternoon.
All of this was accomplished with normal traffic flow – no lane reversals on any of the highways.
This is the second year in a row that evacuation in preparation for an oncoming hurricane went this smoothly.
What does all of this mean? We DON’T need I-73 to ensure a safe, smooth evacuation from the Grand Strand.
Last year, after Hurricane Florence, Seventh District Congressman Tom Rice asked Gov. Henry McMaster to amend the state’s request for hurricane relief funds to include $348 million in immediate funding for I-73.
A statement on Rice’s Congressional website announcing the request read,” I wrote a letter to Governor Henry McMaster urging him to amend his application to the federal government for disaster relief from Hurricane Florence to include immediate funding for I-73 as an adequate evacuation route. In the wake of Hurricane Florence’s devastation, and the ongoing, life-threatening risks it poses to our residents, funding an adequate evacuation route for the Grand Strand needs to be a top priority.”
Gov. McMaster dutifully amended his request for hurricane relief funds as asked by Rice.
Hurricane relief funds should be used to help the owners of the thousands of homes and businesses directly impacted by the storm, not to build new roads that are not needed.
The claim that the Grand Strand needs I-73 for an adequate evacuation route to save lives is as bogus as the claim that I-73 will bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the area.
They are both cover for the real purpose of I-73, which is to line the pockets of a few area property investors and a few business owners who have influence with elected officials.
Any claim that I-73 is needed for adequate re-entry after a storm is just as false. Re-entry is going to be determined by the amount of flooding and damage to such roads as U.S. 501, S.C. 9, S.C. 22, Hwy 90 and Hwy 905 to name a few important ones.
Horry County Council, at the urging of some of these elected officials and the special interests who have their ear, again voted to prolong the hope that funding can be found for the I-73 project in Horry County.
When will a majority of council realize that any money that can be found for a future I-73 is needed now on roads and stormwater management infrastructure already in place?
Only when the voices of the citizens affected outweigh the voices of the special interests and this boondoggle is exposed for what it is!