Gov. Mark R. Warner expressed his excitement about growing tourism and development in Southern Virginia to an audience of more than 400 people June 8 as the town of Clarksville and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) dedicated, the Route 58 bypass bridge over Bugg’s Island Lake, the Judge John W. Tisdale Memorial Bridge.
“Roads like these are like yesterday’s railroads,” Warner said. “They’re bringing more people and commerce into rural areas, smaller cities and towns.”
The ceremony was held in honor of Judge John W. Tisdale, Mecklenburg County court judge for more than 40 years, longest-tenured mayor in Clarksville town history and devoted area historian.
“I’m pleased to help dedicate this bridge to such an accomplished Virginian,” said Warner. “He served this state and area with distinction.”
John W. Richardson, the judge’s great-grandson, thanked the town on behalf of several generations of Tisdales for the opportunity to recognize his family’s deep connection to the area and commemorate their ancestor permanently for the community. Many state and local officials were in attendance, including Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer, Sen. Frank Ruff Jr., Delegate Tommy Wright and Commonwealth Transportation Board member Gerald McCarthy.
Following the ceremony, the bridge was open to the public for cycling, jogging, walking and pets as attendees gathered at Occoneechee State Park for an elegant ice-cream social, to celebrate Judge Tisdale’s favorite treat.
The 5.5-mi. long Clarksville Bypass opened in its entirety to traffic for the first time June 9. This $75- million, four-lane highway carries traffic just south of the town of Clarksville, with interchanges at U.S. 15 just east and south of town. The Judge John W. Tisdale Memorial Bridge is 4,800 ft. long and stands 60 ft. above Bugg’s Island Lake.
The bypass is just one of a number of revitalization efforts along the Route 58 corridor, which stretches between the Atlantic Ocean and the southwest tip of Virginia as the longest highway in Virginia.
The Route 58 Corridor Development Program was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1989 to enhance economic development potential across this largely rural portion of the state. It encompasses approximately 680 mi. and has included $840 million worth of planning, environmental and engineering studies, right of way and construction. Today, approximately 370 mi. of the road are four lanes or more, compared to 240 mi. when the program started.