Stickler: Assumptions for increased tourism from I-73 grossly inflated

July 12, 2013 

Stickler

— Supporters of Interstate 73 continue to claim that it will produce 29,000 jobs. The source of that claim appears to be the Chmura “Economic Impact of I-73 in South Carolina” report, commissioned by the North Eastern Strategic Alliance.

But there are significant flaws in that study.

Chmura claimed that I-73 would save one to two hours of travel time from I-95 to Myrtle Beach, producing a 7.1 percent increase in tourism, despite the federal environmental impact statement projecting just 20 to 30 minutes saved. The shorter time saved should reduce that 7.1 percent increase in tourism to less than 2 percent.

Chmura then applied her 7.1 percent increase to the entire annual tourist volume, even though only 56 percent of Myrtle Beach tourists visit by car using I-95. An even smaller subset of these I-95 travelers would use all or any part of I-73.

The highways that I-73 would provide an alternative to averaged fewer than 5,300 cars a day from 2006 through 2011. If we assume that none of that traffic is local, and use Chmura’s assumption of four visitors per vehicle, no more than 3,869,000 visitors could potentially save travel time on I-73 each year. Myrtle Beach officials say the average tourist stayed for 5.6 nights and spent $98 per day. Using these numbers and assuming a 1.93 percent increase in the number of tourists as a result of the shorter travel time, the direct tourism spending could be expected to increase by less than $40 million per year.

This is less than 7 percent of the $600 million (in 2009 dollars) in additional tourist expenditures that Chmura and the boosters claim will be produced by I-73. That means that their claimed 18,856 total new jobs resulting from an increase in tourism generated by I-73 (12,669 direct jobs in the local tourism industry and 6,187 jobs created by the “ripple spending effects” around South Carolina) are more likely to be no more than 1,305.

S.C. Rep. Alan Clemmons, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and state Transportation Commissioner Mike Wooten have been given a much more detailed version of my analysis, yet they authored the June 7 column (“I-73 essential to tourism”) continuing to repeat the invalid claims of I-73 jobs creation.

They are either clueless or shameless.

Tom E. Stickler

Pawley’s Island

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