The Commonwealth Transportation Board of Virginia this week voted to approve the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan, which will help address some of the issues afflicting the interstate.
The plan was drafted by a team supported by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
Earlier this year, the state's General Assembly instructed several state agencies—including VDOT—to study the entire length of the I-81 in Virginia and identify potential fixes and sources of funding. After public comment meetings were held, the agencies identified top problem areas, relying on statistical measures like crash frequency and severity by location, as well as the amount of delays. VDOT has reported a 12% increase in traffic on I-81 around Harrisonburg in the past five years, and delays have increased by 55%.
According to VDOT, widening the interstate would cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million for every mile of pavement. Tolls for heavy commercial vehicles, as well as taxes on fuel and retail sales, have been considered as potential options to pay for an estimated $3.3 billion in projects.
With the 17-member Commonwealth Transportation Board's approval, the improvement plan will go before the General Assembly in the 2019 session.