A Covington attorney who once served in the Virginia legislature is still hoping that a section of U.S. Route 220 between Iron Gate and Eagle Rock will be four-laned.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is now working on a multi-phased project to realign sections of an 8.4-mile stretch of roadway and carry out other improvements designed to enhance safety on the much-traveled road that connects the Alleghany Highlands with the Roanoke area.
But attorney Bill Wilson said Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Hot Springs; and Del. Terry Austin, R-Buchanan; are working to secure funds to possibly make the roadway four lanes.
“They are at the ‘gate’ and should be able to help,” Wilson said.
Deeds serves on the Transportation Committee is the Senate, while Austin is a member of the House Transportation Committee.
State officials have said the traffic count on U.S. Route 220 does not warrant the cost of four-laning the roadway.
Wilson said state officials have also stressed that substantial federal dollars will be needed to four lane the road.
However, he continues to receive questions from local residents about the possibility of making the road four lanes.
“I tell them ‘maybe,’ but the cost of doing so is huge and without substantial federal dollars that is not likely to happen in the reasonably near future. I also tell them that one thing is certain, if we cease our efforts, it will never happen,” Wilson said.
The state began focusing on the current improvement project after Wilson and a delegation of leaders from the Highlands traveled to Richmond to meet with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe while he was still in office.
Wilson said he recently received an e-mail from Kenneth King, the district engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Salem District.
The e-mail, dated Dec. 22, said that engineers from the Salem District and Susan Hammond, resident administrator for VDOT’s Lexington Office, will be available to address questions about the project as they participate in upcoming local government meetings.
“Additionally, I am available to visit with you and other stakeholders along the corridor to discuss the progress of the project and address any issues needing attention,” King wrote to Wilson.
“The ‘U.S. 220 Delegation,’ made up local governing bodies in the Alleghany Highlands, major corporations and the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism have made it clear to Mr. King that they would like periodic reports made to the local governing bodies by the Salem District engineer, himself, in addition to reports from Susan Hammond, who is the district administrator of the Staunton District,” Wilson said.
“The reason for that insistence is because the project is entirely in the Salem District and we need to hear directly from representatives of that district regarding the status of the project. Part of our problem, historically speaking, is that officials in the Alleghany Highlands have not gone into Botetourt County enough to tend to this project, which is so important to our economic future and for the safety of our people as they travel back and forth to the Roanoke area,” Wilson added.
The current project is costing approximately $79 million. It is scheduled for completion this fall. The work started in spring 2017.
In an update issued in the fall of 2020, VDOT said the work was at the 60 to 70 percent completion stage.
VDOT says the project will improve the section of Route 220 as a two-lane road, with the focus on reducing the severity and number of crashes.
The project includes:
— Improving vertical and horizontal alignment.
— Widening shoulders, lanes and center lane width.
— Improving intersections.
— Adding turn lanes.
— Providing additional passing opportunities.
— Providing centerline and edge-line rumble strips.
— Providing plastic inlaid pavement markers.
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