‘Future I-785 Corridor’ signs return to Danville as ‘a symbol of a promise’

Highways signs reading “Future I-785 Corridor” have been reinstalled along the U.S. 29 bypass from the Virginia-North Carolina border to its intersection at U.S. 58.

State and local officials unveiled the sign during a ceremony Tuesday morning at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

Officials who spoke at the event emphasized the importance of highway accessibility for attracting new industries.

“There are a lot of pieces of the economic development puzzle, but highway accessibility is ranked No. 1 by chief executive officers, or CEOs, who determine where to locate or expand their business,” Del. Danny Marshall said. “What is important to CEOs should be important to us.”

The designation as a future interstate corridor would let CEOs know the region is connected with good highways, Marshall said.

Danville, with support from Greensboro, and Guilford, Rockingham and Caswell counties in North Carolina, began an effort in 1996 to obtain interstate designation for U.S. 29 from I-85 in Greensboro.

Signs were installed along the route identifying it as the “Future I-785 Corridor” in 1998. The signs disappeared from that portion of the highway in Danville a few years ago, likely because of snow removal.

Danville Mayor John Gilstrap called the reinstallation of the signs “a project that offers the promise of a better tomorrow.”

“These signs make a valuable statement for Danville and Pittsylvania County when we drive prospects around the region,” Gilstrap said.

To be able to see an interstate sign, even if it says “future,” “is something that contributes to the overall story about why Danville/Pittsylvania County is a good location for the project being pursued,” Gilstrap said.

Marshall, Del. Les Adams and state Sen. Frank Ruff requested that the Virginia Department of Transportation reinstall the signs.

“The ability to move goods in and out is extremely important,” Ruff said. “The designation as a future interstate corridor, along with our efforts in workforce development training, makes for a great economic development package.”

State Sen. Bill Stanley called the sign reinstallation “a symbol of a promise that needs to bring a commitment.”

Stanley went on to highlight the gap between spending for interstate projects in Northern Virginia compared to that for projects in Southside. Over the past 20 years, more than $10 billion has been spent in the northern part of the state, compared to $900 million in this region, he said.

“This infrastructure is critical, but if we want it, we must fight for it,” Stanley said.

During an interview after the event, Marshall told the Danville Register & Bee that federal designation is being sought for the interstate. Marshall said he has talked with U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, R-5th District, about getting the designation.

Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said the signs and designation would give the region “more visibility for an industry with specific infrastructure needs.”

“This allows us to market the region as having interstate designated highways,” Tucker said.

The Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. — of which Southside is a part — is within a 24-hour drive of two-thirds of the country’s population, Tucker added. Getting products to consumers as quickly as possible is paramount, he said. The signs add attractiveness to the region from a marketing standpoint, he said.

John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

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