SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA (WJHL)- Some heavily traveled roads in southwest Virginia will soon see a major facelift as the state commits to spending $1.7 billion on road projects across the commonwealth. These improvements are the commonwealth’s transportation board’s first
wave of transportation projects scored by Virginia’s new data-driven prioritization process called smart scale.
This process evaluates each proposed project’s merits using several key factors, including improvements to safety and economic development. Virginia Department of Transportation Communications Manager Michelle Earl said VDOT will invest $586 million into southwest Virginia roadways over the next 6 years.
Earl said, “We’re going to see, in the 2017 fiscal year, about one hundred and four million in funds for construction, maintenance and operations for the Bristol District.” She said a total of 12 projects throughout southwest Virginia will be funded through the state’s 6-year plan as the commonwealth seeks to make improvements in high-traffic areas.
Earl said, “A part of the application process is that they need to prove that there was some economic development.” “Virginia wants to know it’s spending its dollars worthwhile and that they were going to get the money back … by putting in on these road projects they would see a return on investment,” she said.
Bristol, Virginia’s City Engineer, Wallace McCulloch, said one of the planned projects will include widening Lee highway and improving traffic flow near The Falls development. McCulloch said, “The increase in development in the area and the need to improve traffic flow down through there is how the funding was justified.”
McCulloch said, currently if there is an accident on 1-81 then the primary alternate route is Lee highway. He said, “When it happens now it’s a nightmare, in terms of traffic flow, but once we get it open to four lanes all the way through then that traffic can flow through a lot smoother.”
Earl said updating I-81’s exit 17 interchange in Abingdon is among the state’s higher priority projects. Earl said, “We’ll be doing work in the next 6 years on exit 17 in Abingdon and exit 19 in Abingdon and also some work on the ramps on I-81 at exit 5 and Route 11 near exit 5.”
To find out more about upcoming Virginia road pro jects visit virginiadot.orgCopyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.