S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster says President Donald Trump's transportation wish list could be good news for a controversial $2 billion proposal to build an interstate to Myrtle Beach.
The proposed Interstate 73 corridor to and from the popular tourist destination is "badly needed," McMaster said Tuesday, during a public briefing on Trump's plan with a U.S. transportation official and state roads chief Christy Hall.
However, the president's infrastructure plan is hitting obstacles. Trump, who has endorsed McMaster in his bid to keep his job in June's GOP primary, needs Congress to shape his plan into legislation. But having just passed massive tax cuts, some lawmakers are hesitant to embark on a major spending bill without a way to pay for it. And one way to pay for it — raising the federal gas tax — is unpopular.
In South Carolina, however, McMaster's support for the I-73 roads project could win him favor from GOP voters in Myrtle Beach, an important battle ground in June's GOP primary for governor.
In Tuesday's meeting, McMaster also made use of an advantage he has over his four GOP primary challengers: the ability, as governor, to call meetings with powerful interest groups to discuss roads, school safety, the state's opioid crisis and other issues facing the state.
In South Carolina, the interstate project has several obstacles to overcome.
Expected to cost in the ballpark of $2 billion, I-73 has been highly controversial, pitting the populous Myrtle Beach area against environmentalists who oppose the project and other parts of the state that also want limited transportation dollars.
Hall said the I-73 proposal "is certainly poised to be the poster-child-type project" for what Trump envisions.
The interstate project currently is not a state Department of Transportation priority and no state money has been committed to it. The project also faces legal challenges, Hall said.
However, local dollars could be matched with private investment, and a possible toll road to help pay for the project, she said, adding, if structured correctly, the project could be successful.
Raising questions about the project, state Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, asked whether the state should focus on building I-73 when it is failing to keep up its existing roads.