Skip to main content

Is Interstate 73 dead in Virginia?

Maybe ....Maybe Not...It really depends on who you talk to.

Earlier this week, Ronald “Skip” Ressel Jr., who is the president of the I-73 Committee in Martinsville and Henry County, claimed that the I-73 project was over.  In a story from the Martinsville Bulletin, Ressel told the Henry County Board of Commissioners that I-73 no longer has plans to run through Henry County.  He told the commissioners that "the time has come to give up on this dream." 

But is it?

In the same article, Mr. Ressel mentions that a new corridor similar to I-73 could be built by and maintained by the state.  Well, no matter what type of road that is built along the I-73 corridor, it would be built and maintained by the state.  (Unless it is a private toll road - totally different subject).  Mr. Ressel also alludes to the $8.5 million reserved for the I-73 corridor and not having it go to waste.  Indeed, there has been about $12.5 million set aside from congressional earmarks for I-73 that hasn't been spent.  Specifically, $6 million for construction and another $4 million for preliminary engineering.   The Commonwealth of Virginia also contributed 25 percent or $2.5 million as part of their required match.  I'm guessing Mr. Russel's $8.5 million is a combination of the $6 million for construction and the $2.5 Commonwealth contribution. 

Now, I haven't been able to blog as much as I used to, but the driving force behind I-73 in Martinsville and Henry County has been economic development and a business park known as the Patriot Centre.  The Patriot Centre was the impetus for the "Henry County Alternative" which shifted the approved routing of I-73 to the west and closer to Martinsville. 

Countering Mr. Ressel's I-73 white flag is Virginia Senator Bill Stanley who wrote a letter to the Martinsville Bulletin to stress that the goal of building and completing Interstate 73 from Roanoke south to the NC line is still a reality.  He noted that there is a September deadline to determine how to spend the nearly one decade old earmarks.  He mentions that part of the reason the funds have not been used is requirement by the US Army Corps of Engineers to study US 220 alternatives.  He also mentioned how there is efforts in the Virginia Legislature to continue to study and fund Interstate 73 within the state. Senator Stanley did say that if the money can't be used for I-73 right away, it can be used for safety and other improvements along US 220 - which I-73 will roughly parallel to the east.

So depending on who you talk to I-73 is dead or trying to age like a fine wine.  For Mr. Ressel, any construction on the highway is progress desperately needed and the September deadline and no other money dedicated means well it's done.  To Senator Stanley, this is a small bump in the road while the overall plan and funding mechanisms come together.  It's a little bit of both - Interstate 73 in Virginia isn't going to see any activity for most likely the next decade (or longer) but the door isn't closed.  It may be to the interests of Mr. Ressel and the Henry County Board of Commissioners but to others they are working on a Plan B. 

Mr. Ressel hinted that another corridor - possibly following a different route - could be built.  In other words, he just wants something anything built.  But $8.5 million won't really build anything.  I am sure if Henry County had their way - they'd at a minimum have a spur running north from the eastern end of the US 58 freeway to the exit that would connect to the Patriot Centre.  Or another possibility would be to build the 73 corridor south towards Route 87 and Ridgeway and eventually connecting to US 220 at the North Carolina State Line.  However, the $8.5 million will not build much.  If there is any approval from the Army Corps of Engineers - the money could go to a small grading contract but even that small sign of progress will not be enough for those in South Central Virginia eagerly awaiting this highway.

Story Links:
County supervisors told I-73 project appears to be over - Martinsville Bulletin
Virginia Senator: I-73 effort alive in region - Martinsville Bulletin

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Small Towns of Virginia Series - Charlotte Court House

This sleepy little rural town in Central Virginia can easily be overlooked.  Located miles from the Interstate or four lane US and Virginia Highways, Charlotte Court House in many ways is easily forgotten.  However, this tiny town of slightly over 400 residents holds a lot of Virginia and American History.

In 1799, Charlotte Court House saw the passing of the torch from an aging Patrick Henry and a young John Randolph.  The great debate over states' rights was the last for the fiery Henry and the first in public for Randolph.  Randolph would go on to serve in the US House of Representatives and U.S. Minister to Russia.  Henry, who was serving in the Virginia General Assembly representing Charlotte County at the time of the debate, died three months later.

Charlotte Court House is not the original name of the town.  Originally named The Magazine, then Daltonsburgh, followed by Marysville (which was the town's name at the time of the Henry-Randolph debate), Smithfield, and finally…

Old California State Route 41 on Road 425B

While researching the history of the Lanes Bridge crossing of the San Joaquin River I noticed an oddity on the 1935 California Division of Highways map of Madera County.  Today California State Route 41 takes a crossing of the Fresno River west of the confluence with China Creek.  Back on the 1935 Map of Madera County the crossing is very clearly east of the confluence crossing on what are now Road 425B and Road 426 in Oakhurst.   CA 41 can be seen traversing southbound from Oakhurst on Road 425B towards Coarsegold on the 1935 Madera County Map.

1935 Madera County Highway Map

After viewing Road 425B on the Google Street Vehicle it was clear that the path downhill from the top of Deadwood Gulch was substantially more haggard than the modern alignment of CA 41.  I finally had occasion to visit Oakhurst today so I pulled off of modern CA 41 at Road 425B.   Immediately I was greeted by this warning sign.






Road 425B ahead was clearly a narrow road but barely wide enough for two vehicles.  T…

2018 Mojave Road Trip Part 2; The deadly desert highway (California State Route 127 and Nevada State Route 373)

After leaving Barstow via Old Highway 58 my next destination was in Death Valley.  To access Death Valley from rural San Bernardino County required a trek on north on Interstate 15 to California State Route 127 which becomes Nevada State Route 373 at the state line.


Along I-15 I encountered the road sign oddity that is Zzyzx Road about eight miles south of Baker.   Zzyzx Road is a four mile road that used to go to the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa.   The spa was founded in the 1940s and the owner made up the name "Zzyzx" to claim it was the last word in the English Language.  The spa has been shut down since the 1970s and is now part of a Desert Studies Center for California State University.






The southern terminus of CA 127 in Baker is located at I-15 exit 246.  CA 127 is a 91 mile north/south highway which runs to the Nevada State Line in Inyo County.  CA 127 is called Death Valley Road from I-15 northward.  South of CA 127 the road continues as Kelbaker Road which c…