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I-73 alternate path OK’d
Design phase is next when funds available
Sunday, December 30, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Interstate 73 has passed another hurdle.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration on Dec. 21 issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” on the environment with the Henry County alternate route for the interstate.
The alternate route runs from Virginia 890/108, near Figsboro, around the east side of Martinsville to Virginia 87 near Ridgeway, according to the statement issued Dec. 21 by Irene Rico, division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
It was proposed by the Henry County Board of Supervisors to move the interstate closer to industrial parks and the city of Martinsville to promote economic development and to cut costs by using some existing highway.
The highway administration concluded that the alternate route for I-73 “will not have any significant impact on the environment not already considered in the Environmental Impact Statement.”
If anything, the alternate route “will enhance components of the purpose and need related to economic growth, vitality and competitiveness as well as freight movement” because it moves the interstate closer to Martinsville and improves access to existing and developing industrial areas in Henry County and Martinsville, according to information from the FHWA.
Skip Ressell of Henry County, who is among those who worked to get the alternate route approved, said he was “really excited about” the news. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Max Kendall “came up with this idea so long ago, in 2001 I think,” Ressell said. He recalled that Kendall faced an uphill battle to convince local officials that the idea had merit.
“When the county finally realized the savings” as a result of the interstate using parts of existing U.S. 220 and the bypass and became convinced that the alternate route would not delay the project, officials endorsed the idea, he said.
Jason Bond, Salem District spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said Friday the Finding of No Significant Impact “completes the environmental assessment work for the corridor” of I-73, and “it means that design work could proceed if funding were available.”
In addition to the $8.5 million that has been allocated, an estimated $12.9 million more is needed to start the design phase, according to previous reports.
In an August interview, Bond said that he doubted if additional funds would be available soon because of other economic factors and the fact that there are more highway needs than money to pay for them.