US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

Project Name: I-785 Bypass
C03 Project ID: 35
Project type: Beltway
State: VA
Topic Supports Stakeholder Collaboration Application; Integrated Planning Application

Planning for the Danville bypass began in the 1960s, but construction did not commence until 1987. The project was built in three phases between 1987 and 2004 as part of a larger effort to create an Interstate highway connecting Interstates 40 and 85 in Greensboro, North Carolina with Danville, Virginia. It was anticipated that this facility would help attract businesses to the Danville area. There was strong collaboration between state and local government leaders including the Danville City Manager and state legislators as well as between the city and county in an effort to present a united front and work cooperatively with the region's businesses.

In the 1990s, a group of government officials and local business leaders in North Carolina and Virginia formed a bi-state organization called 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. Local officials in Danville had a good relationship with the Governor's office and the project was largely driven by local initiative. The entire 45-mile route was approved for future Interstate designation in 1997. One section of the highway in North Carolina still needs to be upgraded before the Interstate 785 designation is official. For now, "Future I-785" signs have been posted along the US 29 bypass section of the highway to keep up the development activity.

Both the city and county have developed several industrial parks in the region, marketed them actively, and entered into revenue sharing arrangements. Other collaborative efforts include substantial tax incentives and workforce training that the city provides to businesses locating in the region, the funds for these incentives come from a dedicated state source called the Governors Opportunity Fund, a program funded with federal money. Once the section of the highway in North Carolina is completed and the interstate designation is finalized, more new development and businesses are expected to be attracted to the area.