Interstate 81

The I-81 Corridor Study is being performed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board with assistance from Virginia Department of Transportation and is set up in three phases, each including public input. The results of the study will be presented to the General Assembly in December 2018.

Phase 1 will focused on identifying safety and congestion problems along the corridor. The public meetings consisted of a presentation of data collected thus far as well as an opportunity for drivers to comment on trouble spots along the interstate and suggest solutions.

Phase 2 (current) will summarize congestion and safety issues based on public feedback, present potential improvements to address identified problems, provide information on potential revenue generation mechanisms as well as seek public feedback on the recommendations. Meeting dates and locations have been set, so mark your calendars – each meeting will kick off with a presentation at 4pm followed by an open house until 7pm:

  • August 20: Bristol – Holiday Inn Bristol Conference Center
  • August 22: Staunton (North) – Lord Fairfax Community College
  • August 23: Staunton (South) – Blue Ridge Community College
  • August 28: Salem – Salem Civic Center

Phase 3 will focus further on possible funding for the solutions vetted in Phase 2.

It is a sensible study design, and SVN is thrilled that the interstate is finally receiving critical assessment geared towards safety-focused solutions. We’ve taken our long-standing Reasonable Solutions and outlined more specific Safer Solutions Sooner – fixes that can be accomplished in the near future instead of waiting another 20 years or more.

Our immediate suggestions include improvements that don’t involve any environmental permits, no right-of-way purchases and no waiting on construction bids, and are sensitive to the valuable resources that border the interstate throughout the Valley – scenic and historic landscapes, working agricultural lands and small towns:

  • Increase the number of state troopers patrolling the interstate for speeding and unsafe, aggressive, and distracted driving.
  • Find ways to clear accidents much more quickly.
  • Apply new technology. Real time warning messages can be deployed on message signs alerting drivers to upcoming accidents and delays. And programs like Maryland’s work zone automated enforcement SafeZones could be considered for appropriate sections of I-81.
  • Prioritize spot improvements identified by safety and congestion data over excessive widening projects
  • Study the effects of past speed limit increases and fluctuating speed limits along the corridor.
  • Invest in improvements to local road networks in congested areas like Harrisonburg and Winchester, where local traffic uses I-81 instead of local roads.

And, in the long term, moving the long-haul freight traffic onto the parallel rail line should be part of a balanced transportation system.

If you’re interested in receiving updates about the study progress, opportunities for input and other interstate news, sign up for I-81 e-news alerts.