News | November 5, 2021

SELC and partners urge VDOT to scrap outdated Martinsville Southern Connector

SELC filed comments this week on behalf of 20 groups highlighting major flaws with the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Martinsville Southern Connector.

VDOT is pursuing an 8-mile, $745 million bypass of Route 220 south of Martinsville that would run primarily through greenfield areas, destroying hundreds of acres of forests and farmland, crossing numerous streams and wetlands, increasing carbon emissions, and taking many homes. Yet the proposal offers minimal benefits. VDOT’s analysis shows that by 2040, only 12,8000 vehicles per day are expected to use this costly new highway at its busiest point, compared to 21,100 vehicles per day that would continue to use the existing, unimproved Route 220.

Even worse, the proposed new highway is completely unnecessary given the availability of more reasonable alternatives. SELC and our partners have repeatedly raised concerns about the failure to analyze less-costly and much less-damaging alternatives to more directly address the existing corridor’s traffic and safety issues through improvements to Route 220.  In fact, VDOT itself has made recommendations to improve the corridor that continue to be largely ignored in the environmental study.

“This study falls short in many respects, but the most blatant is its failure to effectively study any options other than building a massive new highway through this area,” SELC Senior Attorney Travis Pietila. “These and other shortcomings must be addressed.”

SELC and our partners also warn against finalizing the study of a project that is unlikely to be funded under Virginia’s process for prioritizing transportation spending due to its exorbitant cost and the minimal benefits it would provide—potentially casting a cloud over homeowners and businesses along the proposed route for years to come.

“The Martinsville Southern Connector study is deeply flawed and the project would take Virginia in the wrong direction, destroying natural resources that store carbon and increasing driving and tailpipe pollution when we need to be addressing the climate crisis,” said Trip Pollard, leader of SELC’s Land and Community Program. “VDOT should scrap this outdated proposal and focus on more innovative and less destructive solutions that improve the existing route and have a much better chance of moving forward.”