The beltway creates a semi-circle road around Danville, taking truck traffic off of US 29 through downtown. The new road, constructed between 1987 and 2004, was built to Interstate standards. It is part of a joint effort between Virginia and North Carolina
Project Type:Beltway Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:20,100 Length (mi):25.00
Economic Distress:0.57 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):2468 Population Growth Rate (%):-0.58
Employment Growth Rate (%):-0.60 Market Size:46,274 Airport Travel Distance:66.5 Topography:10
Region:Southeast State:VA County:Danville
City:Danville Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:Danville
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:36.562532 / -79.384030
Initial Study Date:1987 Post Constr. Study Date:2006
Constr. Start Date:1987 Constr. End Date:2004
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2004 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):203,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):301,403,894
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||82.20||46.03||128.23|
|Output (in $M's)||231.21||129.48||360.69|
The US 29 beltway/future Interstate 785, also known as the Danville Expressway, is a 15 mile-long highway built to Interstate standards in Danville and Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Bypassing Danville to the east, it replaces Highway 29, which passed through the city's downtown. The Danville expressway is part of a larger effort to create a 47-mile interstate highway connecting Interstates 40 and 85 in Greensboro, North Carolina with Danville, Virginia. The city and county economic development team has capitalized on the new interstate access to limit the negative impacts of job losses in traditional manufacturing sectors by attracting new industries that rely on interstate access to markets throughout the east coast. In total, at least 2,100 jobs and $62 million in corporate and institutional investments can be attributed to the Danville Expressway.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The US 29 beltway/future I-785, also known as the Danville Expressway, is a 15-mile, four-lane highway built to interstate standards in Danville and Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The highway connects US 29 north of Danville to US 58 South of Danville at the North Carolina border, and includes six interchanges.
The US 29 beltway/future Interstate 785 now connects with the US 58 bypass (completed in 2005) south of Danville. The US 58 bypass improves east-west connections between Danville and the Virginia ports to the east, including the Norfolk International Terminal, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, and the Newport News Marine Terminal, all located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. There are plans to extend I-785 south to Greensboro, NC, where it will intersect with I-40 (east-west across the US) and I-85 (north-south).
Danville Regional Airport provides general aviation service to the Danville and Pittsylvania County. The closest commercial airport is in Greensboro, NC (45 miles south.) The Danville train station provides Amtrak service to east coast cities and the south. There is no cargo rail service in the area.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Danville is an industrial community serving a rural area in south central Virginia. For many years, the economy depended on the tobacco and the textile industries. Dan River, Inc., a clothing manufacturer which at its peak employed over 12,000, was the community's largest employer. The firm closed its doors in April, 2008, laying off 3,500 employees.
Danville and Pittsylvania County historically have lagged behind the state in growth. In 1987, per capita income in the County was only $22,648, just 73% of the state average of $30,744?this dropped to 66% of the state average in 2006. Employment in Pittsylvania County increased by 3.7% between 1987 (51,655 jobs) and 2006 (53,550 jobs.) The County's population increased by 3.7% over the same time period. In contrast, the state's employment increased by 39% and population by 29%, much of this growth occurring in the eastern part of the state around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Interstate highways have provided transportation access to both western and eastern Virginia for many years. However, the central part of the state currently is not served by any interstates. Local government officials and business leaders believe this lack of highway access has made it difficult to attract new industries.
Although planning for the beltway began in the 1960s, construction did not commence until 1987. The project was built in three phases between 1987 and 2004 at a cost of $203 million. It is part of a larger effort to create an Interstate highway connecting Interstates 40 and 85 in Greensboro, North Carolina with Danville, Virginia. The entire 45-mile route was approved for future Interstate designation in 1997 at the request of a coalition of North Carolina and Virginia leaders who believe the Interstate designation will help with economic development efforts in the region. With the completion of and upgrades to the US 29 bypass, the highway is now built to Interstate standards in Virginia. One section of the highway in North Carolina still must be upgraded before the Interstate 785 designation is official and due to current budget constraints that improvement is not expected to occur in the near future. However, "Future I-785" signs have been posted along the US 29 bypass section of the highway.
The US 29 beltway/future I-785 was built in an effort to attract businesses to the Danville area. In the 1990's, a group of government officials and local business leaders formed the Interstate Connection: Alliance for Economic Growth. This group lobbied the Federal Highway Administration to secure Interstate designation for the highway, arguing that the highway would help diversify the economy, create new jobs, generate additional tax revenues and enhance regional cooperation.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The Danville Expressway provided a bypass of Business 29 through the center of Danville. Business 29 is a four-lane road with traffic lights, with speed of less than 30 miles per hour. The beltway is a limited access highway, allowing speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, greatly decreasing travel times for north-south traffic passing through the Danville area, and increasing safety within the downtown. The Danville Expressway carried an average of 20,100 daily vehicle trips in 2007.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The efforts of local leaders combined with the improved access provided by the Danville Expressway have helped Danville adapt to job loss due to closures in the textile and tobacco industries. The region has succeeded in attracting a number of new businesses in a range of industries including food processing (notably Nestle's), building materials manufacturing, high technology vehicle manufacturing, plastics, furniture manufacturing, and precision parts manufacturing. Although the community has realized only a small increase in jobs since 1987, local officials assert that the region would have been hit with significant job loss without the highway improvements and the efforts of local officials to attract new businesses. For example, although Nestle's located in the area before the highway was built, it has chosen to expand in Danville, investing $20 million in 2007 and adding 50 jobs to its base of over 500 jobs, in part because of the highway improvements.
The highway clearly has been more important to some businesses locating in the Danville area than to others. In 2006, Piedmont Precision, a manufacturer of precision parts, expanded in Danville. The president of the company was quoted as saying:
Our decision to remain in Danville and to relocate to the Airside Industrial Park came after exploring several options, including North Carolina. The Park's strategic location to the airport and the future I-785 for shipping convenience, along with the very business friendly environment with the City, led us to the most advantageous business decision for the company, which is to locate our expansion in Danville.
Arista Tube and Essel ProPak both selected locations with easy access to the Danville Expressway. Both companies supply Proctor and Gamble, located in Greensboro, with tubing for personal hygiene products. Both considered locating in North Carolina, but found the business climate in Danville more appealing, and the access to Greensboro provided by the highway was sufficient for effectively serving P&G.
In 2005, Danville succeeded in attracting Swedwood North America to locate in one of its industrial parks served by the bypass. Swedwood is a Polish company that builds furniture for IKEA. The firm was convinced through a personal visit by Danville officials to its headquarters in Poland. The access provided by the Danville Expressway, which allowed the firm to reach its east coast market, was one factor in the firm's decision to locate in Danville. While Swedwood initially brought 175 jobs to the area, it expects to employ 740 people. In 2008, Com. 40 LTD., a mattress manufacturer that supplies Swedwood, located in Danville. Other manufacturing companies that have located in Danville and Pittsylvania County at least in part because of the highway access include Unarco (manufacturer of shopping carts), Infinity Global Packaging, and Yorktowne Cabinetry. Televista, a call center, also considered the highway an asset when it chose to locate in Danville. According to a past mayor of the City, the highway at least ?gets the city a first look? from companies that want a location with interstate access.
In 2005, Virginia Tech, in collaboration with the city and county, invested $20 million to construct and open the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research at the Interchange between US 58 and the Danville Expressway. The Center is perched on a hill overlooking the highway, providing it with great visibility. The Center is part of an ongoing effort to bring high tech jobs to the region, and to provide opportunities to train Danville and Pittsylvania County residents for new jobs in high tech industries. The highway cannot be credited for attracting the Institute to Danville, but its decision to locate along the Danville Expressway was influenced by the access and visibility provided by the highway.
Retail has also benefited from the highway. Coleman Marketplace, a big box development in Danville that includes Dick's Sporting Goods, Home Depot, and Target, relies on the access provided by the Danville Expressway to reach a regional market. Sam's Club, located in close proximity to Coleman Marketplace, and also has benefited from access to the regional market. Danville has committed to a strategy of attracting new retail in order to enhance its position as a regional shopping hub.
In nearby Henry County, which has an economy similar to Pittsylvania County but no north-south interstate connection, employment has decreased by 26% between 1987 and 2006, the same period in which employment in Pittsylvania County increased by 3.7%. Local officials believe the interstate has played a significant role in this disparity between the two counties.
In total, at least 2,100 jobs and $62 million in corporate and institutional investments can be attributed to the Danville Expressway. This does not include the full expansion of Swedwood that is planned over the next several years. Local officials believe that the impacts of the highway are just being realized and that with the completion of the highway in North Carolina to interstate standards, and signing of the roadway as Interstate 785, the road will further help attract new businesses to the area.
Several factors have been influential in attracting new businesses and diversify the economy. Local government leaders, including the City Manager and state legislators, have been instrumental in promoting Danville. During the 1990's and early 2000's, the Danville City Manager made economic diversification the centerpiece of his administration. The city and county have joined forces to provide a united front and present a spirit of cooperation to businesses, in stark contrast to some of the other struggling regions of Virginia. Both the city and county have developed several industrial parks and have marketed them actively. In a move unparalleled elsewhere in the state, the county and city have entered into an agreement to share all revenues generated by two industrial parks, one in the city and one in the county. Sewer and water services are extended to all the industrial parks, but not to other undeveloped areas of the city and county.
The city offers substantial workforce training and the workforce has a reputation for being hard-working. The city also has two State Enterprise Zones, which offer tax incentives to businesses. Finally, the region is able to offer substantial incentives to businesses through the Governor's Opportunity Fund, a state program funded with federal money through the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. These funds are provided to state that have relied on tobacco to help them diversify their economy. Each state establishes its own guidelines for using the funds. Virginia allows the funds to be used for a broad range of economic development activities throughout the tobacco-producing region of the state. This strategy gives Virginia a benefit over North Carolina, which limits the use of the funds to making improvements in distressed communities, but not specifically for incentives to new businesses.
City of Danville Assessor’s Office
City of Danville Department of Economic Development
Danville Mayor’s Office
Institute for Advanced Learning and Research
Institute for Advanced Learning and Research
John Lambert and Associates
State Secretary of Transportation under Governor Warner
VA Department of Transportation
Case Study Developed by Susan Jones Moses & Associates