August 23, 2012
Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation is visiting the Roanoke Valley today to initiate planning for widening Interstate 81 from Roanoke to Christiansburg.
Shenandoah Valley Network and our partners recognize the need to ease Roanoke Valley congestion by widening that section of I-81. But we remain deeply concerned about how VDOT’s one-size-fits-all approach to I-81 improvements – major widening to eight or more lanes through most of the corridor – will impact rural communities, farms, battlefields and local economies in the Shenandoah Valley.
VDOT officials have long reassured Shenandoah Valley elected leaders, business owners, and local reporters that the federally-approved 2007 plan for massive highway widening on I-81 will never happen due to cost and a lack of tolling authority. However, today’s announcement marks the second time the state has moved forward with implementation of the 2007 expansion plan. Truck climbing lanes were added in Rockbridge and Montgomery Counties that conform to the plans call for maximum widening on the corridor.
There are other less costly and destructive options to address safety problems and congestion hot spots on I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley. Local governments and civic groups have long supported alternatives: specific road improvements at safety and congestion hot spots, continued investments in rail networks to accommodate more through truck traffic and freight, greater safety enforcement and better local road planning to avoid channeling commuters to the interstate. These affordable and reasonable solutions should not have been rejected in favor of a sole approach, highway widening, in the 2007 plan.
For more information on the reasonable, affordable mix of I-81 improvements endorsed by the Shenandoah Valley counties, cities, and civic groups, see “Reasonable Solutions for I-81” on this page: http://www.svnva.org/index.cfm/1,114,0,0,html/Interstate-81
Kate Wofford, Shenandoah Valley Network
John D. Hutchinson V, AICP, Jennings Gap Inc.