VDOT is hosting a third round of meetings on its study of I-81. The study, as directed by the General Assembly, is meant to “identify targeted improvement along I-81 and potential revenue sources that could be dedicated to improvements.”
Proposed improvements are designed to improve safety and travel times along the highway:
- adding extra lanes in strategic locations,
- improving roadway “geometry” (design-speak for changing the way vehicles interact on the highway such as longer merge lanes, the degree of curves, visibility),
- adding parking locations for tractor-trailers to get off the highway instead of using the shoulder at on/off ramps, and
- improving accident response times.
Some notable statistics about I-81 relative to other interstates in Virginia show what the challenges are:
- I-81 moves $312 billion in goods every year, with 11.7 million trucks per year. That’s over 42% of all interstate truck vehicle miles in Virginia. I-81 is an important corridor for our economy locally and regionally. And yes, cars share the road with more trucks than other roadways.
- Incidents are our primary cause for delays – 51% of all delays. All other interstates major cause of delays is “recurring” events, aka congestion (72%). So just building another lane doesn’t necessarily get us out of that mess, because the issue isn’t volume so much as it is safety. Improving how the road we have functions can make it better. That’s where safety upgrades and redesign of interchanges and road geometry can bring real benefit for our investment.
You have a chance to make your voice heard one more time before the study is complete. Recommended improvement packages will be presented on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn – Valley View in Roanoke.
If you can’t attend, you can submit comments on-line at this website, which also has all the information from past meetings, http://www.ctb.virginia.gov/projects/major_projects/i-81_study.asp . The comment period closes on November 30, 2018.