Meadows of Dan: 12/16/2003

12-16-2003

Branch gets contract to widen U.S. 58 
First to be widened will be the area where the highway crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan.

By Ray Reed – roanoke.com

Virginia transportation officials and a Roanoke road builder signed an agreement Monday to widen U.S. 58 to four lanes from Stuart to Hillsville.

Legislators in the Martinsville-to-Carroll County area say a wider U.S. 58 is a key to improving the region’s economy and recruiting employers to replace textile mills and a downsizing furniture industry.

The project by Branch Highways will replace a 36-mile, two-lane segment of U.S. 58 and make it a mostly four-lane highway from Interstate 77 to Virginia Beach.

The first piece to be widened will be a three-mile segment where U.S. 58 crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan in Patrick County.

State legislation this year gave the parkway-crossing section top priority because it had taken several years to negotiate a construction permit with the National Park Service.

Construction on the $20 million segment is expected to begin in early spring 2004 and is scheduled to open to traffic by the end of 2005.

The segment with No. 2 priority is a Hillsville bypass, and No. 3 is the 3,300-foot Lovers Leap Mountain in Patrick County. Those two areas pose the most difficulty for commercial trucks.

Financing for the first phase of construction will come from money the Virginia Department of Transportation had designated for U.S. 58.

Several options are available for financing the other segments, including debt arrangements, said Larry Dickenson of Branch Highways.

The agreement signed Monday means Branch will build all the segments remaining between Stuart and Hillsville.

Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act allows VDOT and builders to negotiate construction terms that allow for debt financing and expedited construction.

U.S. 58 will be the first road in Western Virginia built under the PPTA process, Dickenson said.

“This agreement demonstrates VDOT’s continued commitment to widening Route 58 between Hillsville and Stuart, but additional revenue sources must be identified for future construction phases,” said Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement.

Remaining segments will be built as funding becomes available, VDOT said.

Dickenson said the cost of remaining segments is estimated at about $339 million.

About 370 miles of U.S. 58 are four lanes or more, compared to 240 miles when the road became a priority project with designated bond financing in 1989. Work began on the East Coast and is moving westward.

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