US Route 17 Improvements

Project Summary

Timmons Group developed plans for improvements to 11.6 miles of U.S. Route 17 resulting in a 4-lane divided highway on a new alignment from the North Carolina State Line to Route 104 (Dominion Boulevard).

Project Highlights

  • The old 2-lane roadway ran parallel to the Dismal Swamp Canal, owned and controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Potential impacts to the Canal and adjacent wetlands precluded widening the roadway on its existing alignment.
  • The 109,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp provides habitat and refuge to roughly 350 black bears. A study by Virginia Tech was performed to help determine where these bears tend to cross Route 17 and wildlife crossings were incorporated into the final project design.
  • The design of storm drainage and stormwater management facilities was a challenge due to the extremely flat (zero-percent) grades, combined with the prohibition of directing any additional stormwater towards the Dismal Swamp Canal.
  • Route 17 serves a regional safety function by providing an alternate hurricane emergency evacuation route for the Outer Banks. It is estimated that 80% of the traffic on Route 17 is non-local and 24% of the traffic is trucks.
  • Old Route 17 was left in place and continues to provide access to local property owners as well as new nature trails and recreational facilities along the Dismal Swamp Canal. 
  • In 2004, the project received the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative award from the Federal Highway Administration for protecting wildlife and preserving the Great Dismal Swamp ecosystem. 
  • In 2007, the project received an Engineering Excellence Award from ACEC - Virginia.