Martinsville City Council unanimously approved $10,000 in requested funding to help move along the efforts of the Martinsville Southern Connector Project as part of the plan for Interstate 73.
In a presentation to council members, City Manager Leon Towarnicki noted that I-73 is intended to serve as a solution to some of the area’s transportation needs, specifically from the Virginia-North Carolina line, through the Ridgeway area, and connecting to the bypass.
“You go from Ridgeway, you hit south down (U.S.) 220 to the Virginia-Carolina border. The road is curvy, lots of ups and downs, and pretty treacherous if you’re through there and tractor trailers are beside you, in front of you, or behind you,” Towarnicki said.
Many different routes have been mapped out in an attempt to find a solution to this “hourglass traffic pattern,” where many drivers are funneled through the Ridgeway area. Towarnicki said. “Ultimately, one of those routes was selected and it basically picks up somewhere near the Virginia-Carolina line on (U.S.) 220, follows generally the (U.S.) 220 corridor but veers to the west. Then actually, if I recall, comes into the (U.S.) 58 bypass just west of Rich Acres, actually behind the Mercy Crossing Church.”
The estimated cost for this project is $750 million, with a “renewed effort to generate funding for this project,” he said.
To obtain funding for the project, Kemper Consultants proposed that the Martinsville-Henry County area contribute $60,000, in the form of $5,000 increments from September to December, then $10,000 increments January through April following the General Assembly session at the beginning of the year.
So far, $30,000 has been contributed by a private industry. Both the city and the county are being asked to contribute $10,000.
The project has been SMART SCALEd by the state of Virginia, Towarnicki said, and explained that is “a process where projects are rated. There’s a review process that looks at a project in terms of need, cost, cost-benefit ratio, transportation benefit, all of those things, and ultimately applies a score to those projects.”
The proposed funding to support the project was met with positive responses by council members, although they agreed that while the project does not directly affect the city, improving transportation in the area affects everyone.
Noting the area’s proximity to the Savannah, Charleston, and Norfolk ports, Council member Danny Turner said, “We’re in a uniquely great situation to attract international business here, and the completion of I-73 would be the jewel in it.”
He added that he believes the route would “put Bassett and Fieldale back in play.”
Vice Mayor Jennifer Bowles voiced her support for the project.
“I fully support this project. I think this’ll help with our economic development in our area. It’s also for safety, and I think this partnership with the county is also a big deal. I think we need to have reasonable collaboration with this. I’m glad we do,” she said.
Council member Tammy Pearson also expressed support for the Martinsville Southern Connector Project.
“I agree that this would be a wonderful, good, positive way to spend $10,000. We know that Martinsville’s already growing and hopefully it can only help us continue to grow,” she said.
In other matters, the council:
*Acknowledged Sept. 17 to Sept. 23 as Constitution Week. Students from Martinsville Middle School presented the council with information on the Constitution.
*Heard an update from Martinsville Henry-County Chamber of Commerce regarding the city/C-PEG Small Business Development Contract.
*Approved the consent agenda.
*Approved an updated Emergency Operations Plan.