MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) – For more than 20 years, residents in Martinsville and Henry County have been told that Interstate 73 will be built, likely paralleling Route 220, but no work has ever been done.
Martinsville City Council now plans to adopt a resolution that will hopefully help convince the Virginia General Assembly to create a regional transportation authority for the area.
The resolution will act as the city’s formal request for the transportation authority.
“A transportation authority is essentially a consolidated group of communities that link together for the purpose of generating revenue for transportation projects,” Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki explained.
The authority would be made up of Martinsville, Henry County, Franklin County, Roanoke City and Roanoke County.
If created, the sales tax rate in these areas would increase by 0.7 percent and the roughly $60 million a year that would likely be generated by that increase would be used as leverage to get work started on the interstate.
“Let’s say you do that for several years and you accumulate, say, $100 million or $200 million for that project. I think your case is going to be much stronger when you go to the General Assembly to try to get funding for that project or to the Commonwealth Transportation Board,” Towarnicki said.
Some residents, like Martinsville resident Kevin McKenzie, are okay with paying a little more if it will help make the interstate a reality.
“I think it would be good for the area. I think so,” McKenzie said.
Others, like Henry County resident Betty Cannaday, say it’s time to give up on the interstate.
“It’s been in the works for a long time and we haven’t seen anything,” Cannaday emphasized. “People on fixed incomes are getting taxed to death.”
Martinsville City Council is expected to adopt the resolution at next week’s meeting and the other areas are expected to adopt similar resolutions soon.