The plan to develop U.S. 58 is being updated and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has asked the Federal Highway Administration to remove its oversight of the project, according to Lisa Price Hughes, resident engineer.
“The project was designed in the 1990s, and a lot of design requirements have changed” since then, Hughes said.
As a result, work crews are drilling to get core samples, rechecking surveys to determine whether slopes need to be flatter and “to see if we need to change anything,” Hughes said. “The work that we are doing now relates to updating the plans and getting them in order” to proceed with construction.
“A number of years ago we began developing U.S. 58 as a federal project. As part of that requirement, we had to do an environmental assessment,” Hughes said.
In March 2011, Environmental Assessments were completed to evaluate the potential environmental effects of approximately 30 miles of improvements along U.S. 58, which included portions through Crooked Oak, Laurel Fork, Meadows of Dan, Vesta, and Lovers Leap.
Based on those evaluations, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in June 2011.
VDOT completed improvements through portions of Hillsville, Laurel Fork, and Meadows of Dan using state and/or local funding only.
“The project was never federalized. It was not eligible to receive federal funds,” Hughes said. “Nothing has changed. This is just a formal notice that we are no longer seeking federal funds.”
Since no federal funds were involved, the 2011 environmental approvals from FHWA are not required,
VDOT plans to pursue completion of the remaining portions using only state and local funding.
As a result, VDOT has requested, and FHWA plans to rescind, its previous FONSI decisions to remove federal oversight, Hughes said.
“The action to rescind the FONSIs does not release VDOT from any environmental commitments and VDOT will comply with all applicable environmental regulations as part of the water quality permitting process as future projects under this program advance,” the agency stated.
While it is not yet known when construction may continue, Hughes said
“There is some funding available” Hughes said, the Lovers Leap portion of the improvement project is next on the list for construction, followed by the Vesta and Crooked Oak sections.
Each section also has some funding available, but at this point, the agency has not determined whether VDOT will work on the project or select a private contractor to do the work.
“We’ll see what’s involved with the updates,” Hughes said.