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Readers have not given up hope for the dormant interstate project, and we join them in a desire for an economic boost.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
A perusal of The Roanoke Times editorial archives this week reveals that we have not uttered a peep about Interstate 73 since May 29, 2007.
At that time, state officials had budgeted $12 million in their draft transportation budget for design work and right-of-way purchases. Optimistic estimates suggested that construction might begin as early as 2010.
Our six-year silence is not a sign that we have soured on the proposed interstate, authorized by Congress in 1991 and envisioned to reach from Michigan to South Carolina. Like business leaders and residents of the Roanoke Valley and Southside, we still recognize the economic opportunities that would arise from the Virginia stretch between Roanoke and Martinsville and on into North Carolina.
Our letter writers and guest columnists have been more diligent in keeping the idea alive on these pages. Most recently, Roanoke businessman William Fralin defended continued lobbying for the Smart Road by suggesting it could be the first leg of I-73.
But in recent years, the magnitude of transportation needs in the commonwealth has been so great that it’s understandably put a damper on discussions of the $4 billion project. Even with the General Assembly’s passage this year of much-needed new road revenues, the odds of making the new interestate a reality remain daunting.
Gov. Bob McDonnell offered some help for the cause last week when he put I-73 on a list of projects that might be candidates for public-private partnerships. It’s unlikely that tolls would be feasible, nor is it clear that other alternatives are available, but state officials plan to look at all options.
As Roanoke Times reporter Jeff Sturgeon observed, the new interstate “sits in a sort of purgatory for projects too big to pay for.” But purgatory is by definition a temporary pit stop for those who ultimately will move onward and upward to better things. We hope a radiant future awaits I-73.
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