SC DOT board approves project complementing I-73

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The board that oversees South Carolina's Department of Transportation has approved starting an $11.5 million intersection improvement project in Dillon County that critics contend represents the start of building the long-planned Interstate 73.

      The vote Thursday by DOT commissioners means construction on the intersection of U.S. 301 and U.S. 501 near Latta should start within a few months. It should be completed in summer 2013.

      Federal money is funding all but a fraction of the cost.

      Commissioner Sarah Nuckles of Rock Hill argues it represents ground being broken for I-73, and that the agency lacks the money and permits to proceed with the interstate link to Myrtle Beach.

      DOT Deputy Secretary John Walsh says the project complements I-73 but stands alone as an improvement even if that's never built.

      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)