State officials and legislators, VDOT officials, Branch Highways Inc. personnel, local supervisors, and about 30 onlookers gathered at Laurel Fork on June 26 to break ground on a $120 million project that will widen an 8.2-mile stretch of U.S. 58 from two lanes to four lanes.
The project, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2015, will run through Carroll, Floyd and Patrick counties, connecting the recently completed 5.2-mile Hillsville Bypass with the three-mile Blue Ridge Parkway crossing at Meadows of Dan, which was completed in 2006.
Commonwealth Transportation Secretary Dana Martin called U.S. 58 “a corridor of significance,” joining with others in pointing out that the highway’s completion is a necessity because of its access to the state’s sea ports.
Delegate Charles Poindexter of the 9th District noted that “one in eight jobs in Virginia is due indirectly to the ports of Virginia,” thus making the completion of U.S. 58 a key to the economic improvement for the southwest part of the state.
“I don’t think it can be overstated that this is the most important project in the state,” said William M. Stanley Jr., who represents the 20th District in the State Senate. “When we turn over this dust, there is so much history in it. This is the road we took tobacco to market, our sons and daughters to work and our exports to port.”
I will not stop pushing until U.S. 58 is finished. The economic future of the Commonwealth of Virginia rests with us. When we turn over this dust, this is the beginning of that future, that greatness. Greatness has never left us and greatness will be here again.”
With talk of the completion of the entire U.S. 58 project, talk turned to the final phase of the project, Lovers Leap Mountain.
“I’m from Martinsville, and there were times I almost scared myself to death on that mountain,” said Martin, who added that citizens needed to remind legislators of the importance of this project. “Legislators are like wheelbarrows, they can be easily upset, but work better when pushed.”
“All of the work in this section is for nothing if we do not fund Lovers Leap. It’s the key piece of the puzzle,” said Stanley. “As long as I’m in the general assembly, I will be a loud voice, a strong voice for the funding of what we’ve started.”
Widening the 8.2-mile section will require excavating approximately 1.7 million cubic meters of rock and dirt, laying 15,000 meters of drainage pipe, installing 10,000 meters of guardrail and placing 135,000 metric tons of asphalt.
Once this phase is completed, there will be 19 miles of U.S. 58 left to be widened in order to complete the project from Hillsville to Stuart. The three remaining projects include Lovers Leap Mountain ; Vesta, which runs from Meadows of Dan to Lovers Leap Mountain; and Crooked Oak, which runs from the Hillsville Bypass to Laurel Fork. In addition, 1.7 miles of Rt. 669 will have to be improved as part of the project. The cost of the remaining projects are estimated to be around $480 million.
U.S. 58 is Virginia’s longest roadway, stretching 508 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the southwestern tip of the state. The Virginia General Assembly established the Route 58 Corridor Development Program in 1989 to enhance economic development potential of the largely rural areas that the road passes through.