By Taylor Boyd
The $300 million design-build project to widen 7.4 miles of U.S. 58 over the Lovers Leap area will begin this fall or early winter and will continue for five years – until the spring of 2026- according to representatives and a video from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
“The primary purpose of the program is to enhance economic growth potential and to provide an adequate, safe, and efficient highway system along Virginia’s southern boundary,” according to a video presented at the meeting.
Detailed plans for the upcoming project were released at a recent meeting in Stuart.
In addition to widening the 7.4-mile section to four lanes, the project also includes widening road shoulders, improving secondary roads connections and private entrances to provide greater intersection sight distance, adding turn lanes at all secondary road connections and crossovers, providing truck brake check areas and truck escape ramps, and enhancements to the Lovers Leap Overlook.
Enhancements to the Overlook area include a better designation of the area, a safer access to the overlook, and an increased number of parking spaces.
The project will be broken into three segments – the eastern segment, central segment, and western segment – with work occurring on all three sections simultaneously.
Construction is set to begin one-fourth of a mile west of the Poor Farmers Farm Store, in Vesta, and will end at the existing 4-lane section of the U.S. 58 Stuart Bypass.
The western segment of the project will include two different styles of section, with the first type beginning one-quarter mile west of the Poor Farmers Farm Store and continuing three-quarters of a mile east of the Lovers Leap Overlook.
“This typical section will provide for two lanes of traffic in both the westbound and eastbound directions with a raised grass median” between them to enhance safety, according to the video.
The second type will continue from the ending of the overlook area to one-quarter mile east of entrance to the entrance of the DeHart Botanical Gardens. It also includes two lanes of traffic in the westbound and eastbound directions, but with an 18-foot paved median in between the lanes instead of a grass median.
The central segment will start one-fourth mile east of the Botanical Gardens and extends to the intersection of U.S. 58 and Virginia 640 down the mountain. The existing two lanes of U.S. 58 will become the westbound lanes, and two new eastbound lanes will be constructed.
“The new eastbound lanes will descend Lovers Leap Mountain to the west of Greasy Bend Lane and will provide gentler downhill grades,” the video stated.
The eastern segment will extend from the end of the central segment to the existing Stuart Bypass. This section will include two lanes of traffic in the eastbound and westbound directions and will tie into the existing Stuart Bypass.
During construction, VDOT will also continue to acquire and secure the remaining rights-of-way needed. All effected property owners have already been contacted.
Loud noises are to be expected during daytime hours due to rock drilling and blasting. When drilling and blasting, both directions of the road may be blocked for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
“Drivers should expect loud noises and allow extra travel time,” the video stated and noted message boards will be used to inform and alert drivers as needed.
Trey Joyce, project engineer for Branch Civil, said the company must give a minimum 48-hour notice for drilling and blasting.
“When that blasting starts happening, it’s going to be going on pretty much every week,” he said.
Construction will typically take place during daylight hours Monday through Saturday, with some night work possible. During construction, the road may be reduced to one lane of traffic at times, with periodic delays of five to 15 minutes. Traffic may be controlled by flaggers or temporary signals.
The speed limit is anticipated to be reduced to 45 mph.
“Message boards will be used at both ends of the project to communicate upcoming traffic changes, and drivers should expect delays due to the lengths of one-lane work zones,” according to the video.
If an emergency condition arises that requires the closure of U.S. 58, an off-site detour will be used in the event of an emergency.
“If an emergency event requires a total closure of U.S. 58, local, non-commercial traffic can still use secondary roads around the closure. However, a detour route has been developed primarily for rerouting commercial vehicles as many roads that could serve as alternative routes are not suitable for trucks and larger vehicles,” the video stated.
Joyce said the company and VDOT plan to hold a meeting with Emergency Services officials to discuss emergency route, “so, they know if they get a 911 call where to go, how to get around, and what they got to do.”.
A two-week notice will be given if the road is going to be closed, and a one-week notice will be sent out for any kind of land closing, Joyce added.
For more information, call 276-224-2389, email Route58LoversLeap@branchcivil.com, or visit www.virginiadot.org/route58loversleap.
Construction improvements on the road originally began in the 1990s, with the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Program, and have included the Meadows of Dan Bypass, the Hillsville Bypass, and the Tri-County and Laurel Fork segment of U.S. 58.