Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 18, 2012

Citizens can weigh in on Rt. 696 renovations

POCAHONTAS, Va. — The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking for Tazewell County residents to weigh in on an $8 million road renovation project to increase access to the Pocahontas State Correctional Center.

Michelle Earl, a spokesperson with VDOT, said officials with VDOT will be coming to Tazewell County in July to discuss a project reconstructing a 1.82-mile section of Route 696, also known as Big Branch Road. VDOT officials will be meeting with the public to address concerns or questions on Tuesday, July 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Abbs Valley/ Boissevain Elementary School.

Earl said the new improvements on Route 696 are needed to make the prison more accessible.

“We have worked on that road before, but we are working on a different section of the road this time,” Earl said. “This is adjacent to some of the work we have done before. We are ultimately trying to improve access to the prison through this project. There is more traffic on the road because of the prison and it would be of benefit to have a more modern roadway leading up to that facility.”

According to Earl, the road will be widened to accommodate heavy traffic flow.

“The road will be widened and drainage improvements will be made,” Earl said.  “Route 696 is currently two 9-foot-wide lanes with 2-foot-wide shoulders. The proposed roadway will have 11-foot-wide lanes with 6-foot-wide shoulders. The shoulders will be 9-feet-wide in areas where guardrail is installed. This will improve alignment and take out some of the curves. There will also be improvements at the intersection of Route 102 and 696.”

Earl said a mix of state and federal funds will help cover the costs of the project.

“The estimated cost is for the project is $8 million,” Earl said. “State and federal funds will be going into this project. Once we go through the engineering phase, we will go to right-of-way and then advertise it to contractors who will construct the project. We anticipate going to bid in November 2014. We are hopeful people will come out, take a look at the plans for the road and then give us their feedback.”

 VDOT encourages all interested citizens to attend the public hearing. To give citizens more flexibility in their participation, there will be no formal presentation. Instead, citizens will be able to review maps, drawings and other materials explaining the proposed project and discuss the plans with VDOT representatives.

Citizens will have an opportunity to record verbal comments for the official record anytime during the meeting. Written comments will be accepted during the meeting or may be submitted to VDOT by July 20.

Maps and other materials pertaining to the project are available for review at the VDOT Bristol District Office, 870 Bonham Road, Bristol, Va. For additional information, or if you require special assistance to participate in the meeting, please call the VDOT District Office at 276-669-6151.

— Contact Kate Coil at

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