According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, an average of 2,800 vehicles per day are traveling the new U.S. 58 Bypass of Hillsville.
The information comes from VDOT’s first traffic count on the 5.2-mile stretch of road that fully opened in August of last year. Local reaction to the $83 million Hillsville Bypass has been mixed ever since VDOT announced plans to begin construction on the project a few years ago.
Jason Bond, VDOT’s Communications Manager for the Salem District, said VDOT uses a formula to calculate its Annual Average Daily Traffic counts. He said traffic counts were taken on the Hillsville Bypass for several days in May, and that formula was used to arrive at the figure of 2,800 vehicles per day traveling the new highway.
“It takes into account some days have more traffic and some days have less. I’m sure there is more traffic on the bypass during the flea market versus a regular day, and it also takes into consideration bus traffic and things like that,” Bond said. “It is what it is. I really don’t have an opinion on it. I will say traffic volume on a road is affected by several events, and over time as more business development takes place, traffic on a road generally increases.”
By comparison, VDOT’s most recent published study in 2010 shows that other major roads in Hillsville have a much-higher Average Annual Daily Traffic count. Leading the way is 221/58 West Stuart Drive with 14,000 vehicles per day, followed by 221 Floyd Pike (6,900) and 58 East Stuart Drive (4,200). Even some secondary roads in Hillsville such as Beaver Dam Road and East Grayson Street average 2,700 vehicles per day.
Nearly a year after it opened, the Hillsville Bypass is still drawing reactions from both ends of the spectrum. Hillsville Town Manager Larry South was surprised by VDOT’s initial figure of 2,800 vehicles a day.
“I am very seldom around the bypass, but I usually don’t see anybody on it,” South said. “There are times I come through there at TNT Grocery and look both directions and there is not a car to be seen. But if those are VDOT’s figures, I couldn’t argue with it.”
Despite the low traffic count, South said tax revenues seem to be up for many local businesses near the bypass. After studying tax revenues from a year ago to current ones for 16 businesses he felt could have been affected, 12 showed an increase in tax revenues while only four showed a decrease.
“Only one of them is up substantially, but if anything it seems like the bypass is having a positive effect,” South said.
Hillsville Mayor Bill Tate said he thinks the bypass has helped take a lot of truck traffic out of the town. He thinks the bypass has helped in that regard and he said people traveling from Fancy Gap to Galax seem to love the bypass.
“It has also taken in a lot of revenue,” Tate said. “Fifty percent of the time I’m on it, I’ve seen radar set up.”
Greg Crowder, who will take over as Hillsville’s Mayor in July, sees it a little differently though as he is also the owner of Race-In. While he said he’s been able to make up most of the traffic he’s lost to the bypass, he saw a huge difference during the Martinsville race.
“I don’t think 2,800 cars is enough. There are a lot of secondary roads that have that much. That number highly surprises me. (Route) 620 carries more than that,” Crowder said. “It has affected me. I can tell you we lost our out-of-town traffic. Most of what I have lost is coming back from the eastern part of the county, they are shopping here that didn’t before, so we just traded one for the other. But I can you tell during the Martinsville race there is no extra business at all, where before that was our biggest weekend of the year, even bigger than the Flea Market.”
As far as plans for the bypass, Crowder said water and sewer is needed for the east side of the highway. The lack of utilities is hampering development there, he said, but added that if the town gets a client out there, it would immediately see if it could get a grant to try to secure water and sewer for that area.
Donnie Easter owns the TNT Grocery in Hillsville, which is located next to one of the exits and entrances for the 58 Bypass. He said he hasn’t noticed much change in his business one way or the other since the bypass opened.
“I see more strange faces than I used to. Some people appear to be lost, they come in here and ask what road that is, quite a few people ask about that,” Easter said. “But I don’t know if they’re coming from the bypass or the parkway.”
Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe said he also thinks the figure of 2,800 vehicles per day seems high for the actual traffic on the bypass. But he doesn’t question VDOT’s figures. He added that it’s still the first year, and the bypass is supposed to be more about a long-term solution than a quick fix.
“It seems like a pretty large number for what you see out there, but it’s not meant to be a one-year deal or even a 10-year deal,” Larrowe said. “It is meant to be a 1,000-year deal, I guess. If they can ever get Lover’s Leap taken care of, it is part of the long-term infrastructure of the Commonwealth of Virginia. But if is a big word.”