The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 18

STREETS OF

ROANOKE

Interstate 581
LOCATION
Roanoke County and City

FEATURES
Interstate 581 is a six-lane highway that connects Interstate
81 with Routes 460 and 220. It provides the primary interstate
and regional access to the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport,
downtown Roanoke and Valley View Mall.

HISTORY

Nelson Harris

is a former mayor of
Roanoke and author
of a dozen books on
the region's history.
He is the minister at
Heights Community
Church in Roanoke
and a past president
of the Historical
Society of Western
Virginia.
18

With the development of the interstate highway system in
the 1950s under the Eisenhower Administration and, more
specifically, I-81, the need to direct traffic from the interstate to
Roanoke city and other main state highways became paramount
to economic development. Begun in 1964, the original interstate
spur was constructed in five sections and took three years. The
first, three-section phase from I-81 to U.S. 460/Orange Avenue
opened between December 21, 1964, and September 14, 1965,
as each of the sections was completed. The second, two-section
construction was opened on October 12, 1967. What is known
today as the Roy L. Webber Expressway connecting 581 at Elm
Avenue to Route 419/220 was opened in 1980. Webber was a
former mayor of Roanoke. As the Webber Expressway was not
built to interstate standards, the official terminus for I-581 is
at the Elm Avenue interchange. The expressway was originally

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

constructed with four lanes and then widened to six lanes in
the 1990s.
The opening of I-581 paralleled the construction of Interstate
81. The 33-mile section of I-81 between Dixie Caverns and
Fancy Hill, just south of Lexington, opened in December 1964
simultaneous with the opening of the first phase of I-581.
Now marking 50 years, I-581 was not without
controversy and hurdles. Rights-of-way and its inevitable
construction physically divided neighborhoods and
necessitated the removal of homes and some historic
structures. Yet, no one can argue against the positive
economic impact the spur has created in the Roanoke Valley.

SIGNIFICANCE
The impact of I-581 is unquestionably economic. According
to the Virginia Department of Transportation, over 80,000
vehicles travel the spur daily with the highest volume being in
the vicinity of Roanoke's downtown. The highway has over the
decades spurred private and public development. The adjacent
Roanoke Civic Center (Berglund Center) opened in 1971 with
a 10,500-seat arena and then later was complimented by the
Roanoke Performing Arts Center, exhibit hall and special events
center, the latter being completed in 2007.
Ground was broken on August 22, 1983, for Valley View
Mall. The story goes that developer Henry Faison was flying
TheRoanoker.com

GEORGE DAVIS IMAGES: COURTESY OF THE VIRGINIA ROOM, ROANOKE PUBLIC LIBRARIES

Interstate 581 turns 50 this year, with many of those years overcoming controversy and hurdles to
connect different areas of the region.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - January/February 2018

The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - Intro
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - Cover1
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - Cover2
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 3
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 4
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 5
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 6
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 7
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 8
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 20
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 21
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL1
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL41
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL42
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL43
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL44
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL45
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL46
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL47
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL48
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL49
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL50
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL51
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL53
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL54
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL55
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL70
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL71
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL75
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL80
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL81
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL82
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL83
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - VL84
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 51
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The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 66
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - Cover3
The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - Cover4
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