U.S. 58 project included in governor's funding package

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By Staff Reports

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced last month that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved funding on the development of significant projects that will improve safety and traffic flow in the Salem region.

The projects are part of the Six-Year Improvement Program, which allocates $13.1 billion to transportation improvements statewide over the next six years. The funding was available July 1.

Included in the list of projects funds is nearly $670,000 for planning U.S. 58 Corridor Development projects.

Branch Highways is currently working on the project in Carroll County, expanding 58 from two to four lanes.

Jason Bond of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) told The Gazette that the money is residual funds that are being put back into the program for future projects. At this time, it is unclear what those projects will be, he said.

“This was the only money that was included in the six-year plan… of course, it is revisited every year,” he told The Gazette.

Although the amount may seem large — and Bond noted that every little bit helps — the money is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions still needed to complete the U.S. 58 project.

“The program reflects input from the community,” said McAuliffe in his announcement. “The public played an important role in helping the CTB to shape the transportation program, making the best use of limited resources on projects that will ease congestion and move traffic more efficiently.”

The Six-Year Improvement Program will be updated later this year to comply with the state’s new prioritization process, which was signed into law by McAuliffe earlier this year. Under the process, projects will be objectively selected based on regional needs.

The CTB will work with localities to set weights for key factors like congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety and environmental quality. Specific projects will then be screened and selected for funding beginning in July 2016.

Other road projects receiving funding are in Botetourt County, Montgomery County, Blacksburg, Buchanan and Salem; along with Interstate 81 improvements and expansion of Amtrak train service to Roanoke.