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      SC DOT approves funding for I-73 interchange

      It's been dubbed the Interchange of Hope, with supporters hoping that construction of the cloverleaf will spur more funding for a critical southern leg of Interstate 73 from Latta to Galivants Ferry.

      The South Carolina Department of Transportation commission approved $105 million in funding Thursday to build the I-73/95 interchange in Dillon County.

      "We've been working for 2 and-a-half years to get this," said Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president and president of the National I-73/74/75 Corridor Association.

      Dean says securing the remaining funding for the southern leg of I-73 is now just a matter of time.

      Last year, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $10 million TIGER discretionary grant for I-73 interchange. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant was part of the economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama in 2009. But the grant was a small fraction of the funding needed to build the Dillon County section.

      "What the commission did yesterday was allocate the remaining money to complete that interchange," Dean said.

      Congress is set to take up a new 6-year Highway Reauthorization Bill this year and I-73 backers believe funding for the interchange will be crucial to secure the rest of the funding for the $2.4 billion freeway.

      The interstate would cross six states, stretching from Myrtle Beach to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.