Carroll requests state funding for U.S. 52, I-77 improvements

By Allen Worrell -

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors has requested state funding for improvements to U.S. 52 and Interstate 77’s Exit 1 in Carroll County.

The requests came after the board discussed transportation projects during its Aug. 8 meeting in regards to Virginia’s Transportation HB2 or Smart Scale. Smart Scale is a program that invests limited tax dollars in the right projects that meet the most critical transportation needs in Virginia.

Supervisors’ Chairman Joshua Hendricks said Lisa Hughes with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) informed him the county needed to submit potential Smart Scale projects by Aug. 15. The projects have to be a route of statewide significance such as U.S. 58 or I-77.. Last year the county did receive funding for spot improvements on U.S. 52.

After opening the topic up for discussion, Pine Creek District Supervisor Bob Martin said U.S. 52 from Hillsville to Shorts Creek is becoming a major highway because “77 stays messed up so much, be it a car accident, truck accident or holiday traffic.”

“It throws all this traffic on 52 and (Route) 100, and on 52 there is one major curve that is a solid rock cliff that you go around. There is something like eight homes that come in from the outside of that cliff and the only way a truck can go around that curve, they’re over two-thirds in the middle of the highway. It’s just a matter of time before somebody is killed down there,” Martin said. “I think it’s a shame we are doing projects the state of Virginia should be doing. This would be about three-fourths of a mile below Shorts Creek Church and you go around a solid rock cliff curve where you would have trouble walking around it and staying off the highway if you are going down through there.”

Martin said there have been several accidents in the curve, adding that about 15 feet of solid rock needs to be taken off. When accidents on I-77 and holiday traffic throw additional traffic onto U.S. 52, he said it is just more than the road is capable of handling.

Sulphur Springs District Supervisor Rex Hill said Exit 19 on the west side of Coulson Church could be extended out to Oak Grove Road because of a bad curve. He felt such a project would meet economic development, because of Wildwood Commerce Park, and safety requirements.

Supervisor At-Large Robbie McCraw said something needs to be done at I-77’s Exit 1 in Lambsburg to relieve some congestion there. Hendrick said he had discussed the overlap with Hughes and Dan Huff from VDOT. Huff has already developed a preliminary sketch of Exit 1 that would take it from two lanes to three lanes on Route 620 (Lambsburg Road).

“It looked pretty good. The only comment I made was to extend the turning lane going to 77 South, make it longer,” Hendrick said. (But) the entire interchange from the sketches he has would make a world of difference on Exit 1.”

Fancy Gap District Supervisor Phil McCraw said Exit 1 needs to be addressed badly. Robbie McCraw said a sign has been put up prohibiting tractor-trailers past McCraw Road in Lambsburg, but he said it is tough to see. He wanted to know if the county could pass some sort of ordinance for that stretch of road.

“A lot of these truck drivers will go right on past that and they end up stuck and it shuts the mountain down,” he said. “If you are going to Galax, that is the way GPS will take you.”

Hendrick said he has seen signs warning drivers not to follow GPS instructions in similar instances. Phil McCraw said maybe the county could get VDOT to put up such a sign in Lambsburg.

“If not, maybe we can raise the fines,” he said. “Will that help? I doubt it.”

After more discussion, the board agreed to narrow down its Smart Scale priorities to U.S. 52 spot improvements and I-77’s Exit 1, and let VDOT choose the projects it wishes to fund.

“One thing we need to keep in mind, VDOT changes what they are planning on doing year from year. Two years ago it was all about improvement of rural roads and now they have shifted their focus,” Phil McCraw said. “And just because we think something is going to happen or we get things on the six-year plan doesn’t mean VDOT won’t be changing the focus and what we are trying to do with legitimate concerns within our own district sort of gets put on the backburner. That’s where sadly the general layperson in the community (thinks the) board of supervisors control everything, and that is really a misnomer because (VDOT) is going to tell us what they will do and under the guidelines they will do it. And then we end up deciding what we want to push out of what they want to do and not what we want to do.”

Hendrick then asked Interim County Administrator Nikki Cannon to pass the requested information on to VDOT. In the meantime, he said the county should ask VDOT if there is a qualifier to have a “Do Not Follow” sign for Route 620 in Lambsburg or see if the county needed to buy one instead.

“The road just can’t take it,” Hendrick said.

Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN

By Allen Worrell