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I-73 study passes state Senate
Thursday, March 6, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer
The Virginia Senate has approved a resolution establishing a joint committee to study the construction of proposed Interstate 73 to help expedite the project.
The Senate passed unanimously by a voice vote Sen. Bill Stanley’s Resolution 32, according to a news release Tuesday from Stanley’s office and the General Assembly website.
Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said in an interview Wednesday the I-73 route has been determined and environmental studies are done, and “it’s time to act.” This study will focus on how to get the proposed road built, including procurement and logistics: possible funding, such as federal bonds and state resources; and coordinating construction with North Carolina and South Carolina, he said.
“We have not up to this point had a concerted effort to work with North Carolina and South Carolina on construction of I-73,” Stanley said.
The committee also will work to get the Commonwealth Transportation Board to place the project on the six-year road improvement plan so that it is a high priority for Virginia, Stanley said.
Stanley’s news release stated that federal legislation has designated I-73 as a “high priority corridor.”
I-73 is a federal highway, and states have to participate, financially and in coordination with the federal government, Stanley said.
“It is my aim to see that the results of the I-73 study lead to the timely construction of this road in the very near future, so that we can proceed with opening up our region to the surrounding markets with a safer and more efficient road system,” Stanley stated in the release. “I remain committed to seeing to it that Virginia’s I-73 corridor becomes a reality in our lifetime.”
As a Senate resolution, neither the House of Delegates nor the governor is required to consider the measure any further, according to the release.
“SR 32 provides the necessary funding to complete a detailed study for construction of I-73. This is a key milestone in making this important interstate highway link through Southside and Southwest Virginia a reality,” Stanley said.
The study will focus on I-73 from the Virginia-North Carolina border through Southside north to I-81 near Roanoke, Stanley said.
“The first priority of the study is to focus on safety improvements along the current U.S. Route 220 corridor since the present geometric configuration of this corridor and its uncontrolled access limit the area’s ability to safely and efficiently transport goods and handle personal vehicular travel,” Stanley said.
An 11-member joint committee of the Senate Committee on Local Government and the Senate Committee on Transportation will be established to conduct the study, according to the General Assembly website.
It added that the committee will have six legislative members and five nonlegislative members. Two of the nonlegislative members will be business owners in the affected area, two will be current or former officials of local governments in the affected area and one will be a citizen at large.
In conducting its study, the joint committee will provide an institutional and organizational link between the citizens and businesses of south-central Virginia, their legislative representatives in the Senate and the Virginia Department of Transportation, Stanley’s news release stated.
Stanley said Wednesday it will be a “public committee” that will strive to keep those affected and the general public informed as its work proceeds.
According to the General Assembly website, the joint committee will be limited to four meetings each in 2014 and in 2015. It must complete its meetings by Nov. 30 each year and “submit to the Division of Legislative Automated Systems an executive summary of its findings and recommendations no later than the first day of the next regular session of the General Assembly for each year.”
Direct costs of the study “shall not exceed $17,280 for each year without approval as set out in this resolution,” the website states.
According to Stanley’s news release, once the work of this committee is completed by 2015, it will present a report to the General Assembly detailing its findings on how Virginia can best accomplish the construction of I-73 in a timely manner.
Stanley stated in the release: “The purpose of the I-73 ‘priority corridor’ is to link economic regions in other states to Southside and Southwest Virginia that will spur and support long-term economic growth in our area. The future construction of this highway is a critical piece of our region’s economic strategy.”
To attract new industries to this area, Stanley said, “we must be committed to the planning and development of an effective and efficient roadway that will facilitate interstate travel between Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North and South Carolina. Additionally, I-73 will represent a safe and direct transportation link for the movement of raw materials and finished goods from the port of Charleston, S.C., to the interior of the United States.”
Copies of the resolution will be transmitted to the General Assemblies of North Carolina and South Carolina, “with the recommendation to appoint similar entities in their states to work cooperatively with the joint committee in promoting the construction of proposed Interstate 73,” according to the Virginia General Assembly website.
Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said, “Any attention given Interstate 73 is a positive for the region and Henry County in particular. This has been and continues to be a long, difficult battle, but having the attention of our legislators in Richmond is a huge plus.”
Mark Heath, president/CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said of the resolution, “Anything that moves that ball forward is positive,” referring to construction of proposed Interstate 73.