COLLINSVILLE- On Tuesday, the Henry County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to remain a part of the “Interstate 73 Coalition.”
The coalition is currently comprised of Martinsville and Roanoke plus Henry, Franklin and Roanoke counties, as the Virginia stretch of the planned highway would run through or near each locality. Each city and county provides money for the coalition, which in turn goes to the lobbying firm of Alcalde and Fay. As per the contract, Martinsville pays $1,000 per month, while Franklin and Henry counties each pay $1,500. Roanoke and Roanoke County both pay $2,000 per month to the firm. In exchange, the lobbyists are asked to go to Richmond and Washington D.C. and convince lawmakers to help fund I-73.
Martinsville voted earlier this month to continue their contract for another 12 months. Roanoke County's supervisors did the same. Henry County's contract expired Dec. 31 and on Tuesday, the supervisors will consider a proposed one-year extension of the contract with the county’s fee of $1,500 per month remaining the same.
Board documents show that the county staff recommends that supervisors approve the extension, which would total $18,000. That money would be taken from the county's contingency fund. In the board packet, the reasoning behind the staff's recommendation is that they feel the relationship with Alcalde and Fay has “produced more awareness on the state and federal levels of the I-73 project and the issues surrounding it.”
As the Bulletin reported earlier this month, there are two problems preventing movement on the overall I-73 project. The first is that the Army Corps of Engineers will not issue a permit for the project as is. They have concerns over the extent of stream impacts and asked for some additional analysis. The second problem is that the Virginia Department of Transportation doesn't have the money needed to do that analysis.
MARTINSVILLE-Right now, there’s no money to move forward with Interstate 73.
The last Environmental Impact Statement on I-73 was done in November 2006. The Army Corps is asking for that to be updated, which would take an estimated $8 to $10 million and 4 to 5 years to complete, according to VDOT officials. That study would look at both the questions raised by the Corps and present any possible alternative routes, in order to see if a different plan would have less of an impact on the area.
Once the study is submitted, it has to be approved both by the Army Corps and the Federal Highway Administration. That has to be done before a final design can be created. Between the study and approval process, it takes between 5 to 8 years to finish. After that, then officials will need to find money for the project's design and construction.
Part of the funding puzzle will be addressed by the Virginia General Assembly. Earlier this month, the Virginia Senate approved a bill by Sen. Bill Stanley to provide at least $40 million annually for the I-73 corridor development fund. There is a catch, however. That money comes from tax stamps the state derives from the transfer of real property. It is currently allocated to the U.S. Route 58 corridor development fund. The money will not move over to I-73 until all of Route 58 becomes four lanes, which Stanley anticipates should be in about 10 years, in 2028.
On Tuesday, the Henry County Board of Supervisors will decide whether or not to remain a part of the Interstate 73 Coalition.
Also at the board’s 3 p.m. meeting, the supervisors will consider appropriating a $6,051 grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for selective enforcement to improve highway safety. The funds will be used to purchase three radar units for patrol vehicles, and an in-kind match will be provided by the Sheriff’s Office through use of the department’s equipment.
They will also consider an additional appropriation of $156 from state asset forfeiture funds for the purchase of computer equipment for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.
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