MARTINSVILLE (WSLS) - Everyone wants to see more jobs in Southside. The best way to get it may be a new interstate.
"If you want a jobs program, I-73 is your jobs program," said Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County).
The Virginia Senate held its first joint subcommittee on Interstate 73 at New College Institute in Martinsville, with the goal of turning a long standing idea into a reality.
The new interstate would connect six states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.
But most important to our area, it would provide a faster connection from Martinsville to Roanoke.
Stanley is serving as chairman of the new subcommittee.
It's an incredible investment in Southside and Southwest Virginia," he said. "We need to make that investment because it will be the economic driver to bring this area back to life."
Representatives from North Carolina and South Carolina presented on the project, with construction in some areas of those states already underway.
While transportation is an important factor, it's also about creating jobs.
The independent Chmura Group estimates more than 47,000 of jobs will be created in Virginia alone during the nine years it would take to build I-73.
"To look at the thousands of jobs that are forecasted to be created by the build of this highway in Virginia, it should be priority number one," said South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons.
But cost is also a major factor.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimates $4 billion is needed to complete the new interstate, with only $14.7 million already set aside.
While it's unclear where the money will come from, all parties agree it will take a strong group effort to make I-73 a reality.
"It doesn't matter at this point about party or politics," said Commonwealth Transportation Board member Court Rosen, which decides which Virginia road projects to fund. "This is about us all coming together to do what's in the best interest of this region and that's to get North Carolina to Roanoke built via Interstate 73."
The subcommittee's goal is to get shovels in the ground within the next 10 years.
Stanley said they will have a plan to make that happen in front of the Virginia General Assembly by January 2016.