RAISE Application 2022
US-220 Interchange and I-73 Corridor Upgrade with NCDOT
Ensuring Safety and Promoting Investments for a Manufacturing Revival in Henry County (VA) and Rockingham County (NC)
Located on the Virginia and North Carolina state line, the rapidly expanding Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CCBC) requires substantial strategic offsite road improvements to ensure safety and continued economic growth in the region. Traffic demands associated with significant international business development at CCBC will strain the surrounding roadways and it is important to note that the long-term Strategic Transportation Corridor (STC) identified by NCDOT as the future I-73 compounds the burden. Safety and operational efficiency are compromised and unacceptable under the no-build scenario, making these improvements critical.
Working cooperatively with stakeholders at Henry County, Rockingham County, NCDOT and VDOT, our team has established a comprehensive road improvement package suitable for long-term growth locally and regionally. After establishing expected traffic demand and conducting preliminary traffic and safety analyses on various at-grade and grade-separated intersection configurations, the preferred scope of improvements has been established.
The overview of recommended improvements is provided below:
- Conversion of the existing at-grade, unsignalized intersection of US-220 / Martinsville Loop / BUS 220 to a grade separated diamond interchange with 2-lane, 215 LF bridge consistent with Future I-73 corridor requirements
- Traffic signal at eastern interchange on/off-ramp intersection, free-flow US-220 SB on-ramp from Martinsville Loop
- 3,000 LF on/off-ramp improvements on US-220 / Future I-73 at proposed interchange
- 5,000 LF reconstruction and realignment of Martinsville Loop to maximize efficient movement of freight to/from CCBC
- Reduce access at US-220 / Martinsville Loop (north) intersection to provide for US-220 SB exit to Martinsville Loop only, minimizing traffic conflicts
- 50-car Park & Ride with EV charging stations
- Associated traffic control, drainage, stormwater and landscape improvements.
Based on the engineering tasks completed in coordination with each major stakeholder, it is our recommendation to move forward the US 220 Interchange & I-73 Corridor Upgrade plan as described above. The recommended improvements provide the most cost-effective approach to achieve the necessary long-term accommodations set forth in the supporting traffic analysis, which serves as the basis for this report.
The proposed roadway improvements consist of a new grade-separated diamond interchange at the Martinsville Loop and US-220/I-73, replacing an at-grade unsignalized intersection. Acceleration and deceleration ramps will serve both US-220 northbound and southbound movements. A proposed two-lane bridge, 215 feet in length, will span the existing US-220 four-lane divided highway facilitating overpass movement from Martinsville Loop to BUS-220. The proposed interchange will accommodate all currently projected traffic and will meet the capacity needs of the long-term CCBC buildout. A 50-car Park & Ride responds to the well-established need for ridesharing solutions particularly with clear patterns of daily cross-commuters through this area. Including an appropriate number of electric-vehicle charging stations at this facility supports continued development of the national EV infrastructure.
This intersection is located along the future I-73 corridor, a Strategic Transportation Corridor (STC) for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Facilities in STCs are responsible for moving high volumes of people and freight across regions of the state. According to the NCDOT, STCs must function at high levels of service to provide for the State's economic well-being and efficient movement of goods.
Total project costs are estimated at $17,775,000.
The proposed project is located in Rockingham County, North Carolina, at the intersection of U.S. 220/I-73 and U.S. 220-Business/Martinsville Loop. Improvements extend to the juncture of the U.S. 220-BUS/Martinsville Loop with Spencer Road/S.R. 692.
Situated less than a mile from the border of North Carolina and Virginia, expansion to an access ramp from the mainline (U.S. 220/I-73) to U.S.220-BUS extends 200 feet into Virginia. The Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CCBC), a key contributor to the economic impact of this project, sits to the north of the proposed roadway improvements. The actual formal entry to the CCBC is in North Carolina, off Spencer Road/S.R. 692).
The project sits in the center of critical roadway connections as well as adjacent to a major railroad route. The Norfolk Southern mainline between Roanoke, Virginia, and the Winston-Salem market runs directly adjacent to the CCBC.
Rockingham County, North Carolina, is situated in the central northern section of North Carolina at 573 square miles with just over 91,000 residents. Henry County is directly north of Rockingham County in Virginia and is smaller in both land mass (382 square miles with roughly 51,000 residents). All stats from 2019, U.S. Census Bureau.
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A Catalytic Project for Rural Economic Transition
The proposed RAISE investment will be transformative, working in tandem with the CCBC to encourage and spark activity that serve to restore this region to a new level of stability and overall economic status that we have not seen in decades. In order to appreciate the potential impact and significant value of these improvements to our communities, we look back in time to several waves of devastating fiscal and social disruption.
In spite of the state lines between them, Henry County and Rockingham County bear many similarities when considering the history of commerce and trade. Agricultural operations (tobacco, cotton, grains) of the 18th century gave way to textile production in the early 1800s. Furniture manufacturing became another essential employer, more so in Henry County than Rockingham, but the latter still fostered some smaller operations apart from the well-known furniture mecca of High Point in the county directly to the south.
Every reader will be familiar with the catastrophic implications on both localities as manufacturing operations moved offshore. Over a 10-year period, Henry County lost more than 17,000 manufacturing jobs due to offshoring in the 1990s. Rockingham County fared no better losing many thousands of positions in manufacturing.
As revenue evaporated and economic foundations folded, a plague of social challenges emerged. The area has been severely impacted by the opioid crisis and other drugs of abuse. In Henry County-Martinsville, overdose deaths far surpass other Virginia communities. The overall opioid prescription rate in 2016 was 399.9 per 100,000 residents in Martinsville, compared to 66.5 in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2017a). Drug overdose mortality rate in Martinsville (56.7 per 100,000) is double the U.S. average (27.1) from the same period (2014-2018 according to the Overdose Mapping Tool created by NORC at the University of Chicago).
The consequences of the economic changes have been significant, but both localities have worked to overcome history to spark fiscal recovery as well as recovery from the damages of substance use disorder disabling a significant portion of the prospective workforce. Numerous community- and employment-based programs are in place to counter these impacts and help the workforce align with recruitment efforts. And while these measures must unroll deliberately and through coordinated initiatives, leadership has embraced multi-faceted campaigns to restore economic health.
One of the most successful fronts can be seen in the efforts by both Henry and Rockingham Counties to prepare for and recruit advanced manufacturing companies. In 2014, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (MHC EDC) completed a Target Industry Analysis. The goal of the assessment: “The purpose of this report is to present targeting methodology, along with the data and rationale for the recommended target industries. Industry intelligence for target industries is also provided to enhance understanding of the target industries as a means to support effective marketing and client interactions” (p. 1, Martinsville-Henry County Target Industry Analysis). The document aims to identify prospects that will diversify the regional economy with the goal of long-term sustainable growth.
A key component of the recommended strategy is to aim for recruitment of higher-paying employers. From p. 11 of the same study: “Across all industries in the Martinsville-Henry County (MHC) region, the average wage is $29,000. For manufacturing industries alone, the average wage is $39,000 in the MHC region. The first screen utilized annual average wages of $35,000 which would raise the region’s overall average wages. For the second screening, the wage screen increases to $40,000. The goal is to recruit new jobs that have higher earning potential in order to raise per capita income in the region.”
While this study was completed in 2014, it reinforces a goal identified by the regional leadership and put into action back in 2007. Development of the CCBC was made possible through coordinated planning and investments from a variety of partners and funding sources including: the Harvest Foundation, Henry County, Martinsville City, the MHC EDC, the Tobacco Commission, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, New Markets Tax Credits, the Small Business Administration, and Appalachian Power (AEP). Total local investments to date at CCBC have been $70.4 million.
A similar emphasis can be seen in the new comprehensive plan adopted by Rockingham County on May 17, 2021. The “Rockingham Vision 2040 Plan” summarizes five Emerging Themes and Guiding Principles on p. 38-39: Coordinated Growth, Economic Prosperity, Housing Variety, Enhanced Transportation & Mobility, and Natural Resource Conservation & Enhanced Public Access. A summary of Economic Prosperity reads: “Cultivate a diverse economy that encourages the growth of traditional industrial sectors while fostering new opportunities for small business growth and outdoor recreation and event-based tourism.” The Transportation & Mobility summary notes: “Coordinate highway corridor management with NCDOT to improve vehicular traffic flow and interconnectivity within the region.” The proposed interchange upgrade complements these two leading goals with a particular emphasis on well-planned improvements focused on efficiencies for the future.
The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE Discretionary Grant program, proposes investments in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. Previously known as the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants, RAISE 2022 is a competitive grant opportunity to fund projects that have a significant local or regional impact with an appropriation of $1.5 billion.