- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Construction is expected to begin later this month on an Interstate 81 interchange, despite a lawsuit the Virginia Department of Transportation faces over how it obtained land for the project.

The owners of TravelCenters of America are going to court to seek lost profits from the department, which used eminent domain to shut down the business last year, the Roanoke Times reports (http://bit.ly/1RVeNWG ).

The department maintains the truck stop needed to go because it stood in the way of the project that is expected to ease congestion around Exit 150 in Botetourt County.

The company and the owners of six other properties affected by the project are mired in litigation against the department.

A protracted legal battle could drive up the project cost, which has already exceeded original estimates.

A $17.9 million contract awarded in March to Branch Highways was about $3.4 million more than the department had estimated for the construction phase of a project that costs a total of $46 million. According to the department’s spokesman Jason Bond, the transportation agency was able to adjust funding to cover the costs of the construction contract.

“Being over the estimate does not mean we have exceeded the construction budget, which is set at the time of contract award,” Bond wrote in an email. “It is the same with right of way estimates.”

It is too soon to know how much the department will wind up spending on the land it needs for the project.

Of the seven cases currently pending in court, one is scheduled to be tried in October and another in November. No trial dates have been scheduled for the remaining cases.

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com

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