Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 19, 2013

Lover’s Gap

Multi-million dollar upgrade a necessity

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Another significant, and necessary, infrastructure improvement project will soon be getting underway for rural Buchanan County. This time it involves a $10.5 million reconstruction of a dangerous highway leading to a reclaimed mine site that is also home to an industrial park.

The multi-million dollar contract was awarded last week by the Virginia Department of Transportation to Vecellio & Grogan of Beckley to reconstruct a section of Route 83 — known locally as Lovers’ Gap — in order to eliminate a dangerous switchback in the road. The project should dramatically improve access to a growing portion of the county that has very few level spaces to work with.

However, the reclaimed mine site has become a focal point of growth in the county. In recent years officials have developed an industrial park, residential housing, a recreational area and an emergency services center at the site. However, access to the area remains challenging due to the current roadway.

The construction project won’t be easy. In order to reconstruct the roadway, VDOT will have to completely close Lovers’ Gap when school is out in June and establish a detour for trucks of approximately 15 miles. Based upon current plans, the detour would make use of Routes 744, 604 and Route 460. The detour for cars would be approximately nine miles and would use Routes 744, 604, 615 and Route 460.

The road closure will help to expedite the construction process while also saving the Commonwealth of Virginia more than $1 million in construction costs, according to VDOT. Right-of-way acquisitions for the project are nearing a completion.

Buchanan County Administrator Craig Horn says the county has worked to improve alternative routes, and he is hopeful that the project will create a lasting improvement. There will be forthcoming opportunities for public comment on the project, including a meeting on June 4 from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. at the county courthouse.

The Route 83 reconstruction project is the latest infrastructure improvement initiative for a county that also relocated an entire town across a flood-prone river just a couple of years ago. The multi-million dollar flood-proofing initiative also led to the creation of a new Grundy Town Center, and a new multi-million dollar four-lane widening project of U.S. Route 460 that continues to this very date.

We congratulate Buchanan County officials on this latest, and significant, reconstruction project. Improving access to Route 83, and all of the development projects currently underway at the reclaimed mining site, is of vital importance for continued growth in the area.

While the work will once again create a few headaches for motorists, it is our hope that citizens will weather the detours and construction delays this summer with a sense of calm while also understanding the importance of the project.