Interstate 73 was first proposed in 1979 by two businessmen from Bluefield, West Virginia looking to expand an existing highway used to transport coal to the Ohio River – and after decades, the project appears to be moving forward.
The route is now slated to run through six states, from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – winding into Virginia through Bluefield, passing through Roanoke and down to Martinsville.
Virginia state lawmakers assembled yesterday to discuss the project – identifying not only its economic and job-creating potential, but also the developmental hurdles ahead. WDBJ7 reports that in Virginia alone, the project could cost $4 billion – and VDOT spokesperson Jason Bond says allocating the funding is just the beginning.
“One of the challenges with providing transportation is that it’s a slow process to move a project through development. It takes a lot of time. And even if the funding were available – let’s say all the money was just ready to go on a project – it could still take years to move that project through the process.”
Researchers say the highway could pay for itself within ten years of completion, and lawmakers cite the potential it has in bringing business to small localities along the route – but those at the meeting believe construction won’t begin until 2016.