State lawmakers are hoping to make progress this year to make Interstate 81 safer and less congested.
Lawmakers are pushing several bills through the General Assembly and are urging the feds to step up with funding for I-81. Sixteen state delegates and senators signed on to a letter to Virginia's congressional delegation that urges them to work with the Trump administration to fund projects to increase safety and reduce congestion along Interstate 81 through the valley.
The letter says a lack of federal funding is holding back 41 projects on I-81, including adding lanes at traffic "pinch points" where more accidents are occurring.
State lawmakers in Richmond are also pushing several bills about I-81. One would require tractor-trailers stay in the right lane through certain stretches of the interstate, and another proposes a study of imposing tolls on commercial trucks to pay for road improvements.
“The right category of solutions is being considered,” says Sandum. “We want to see projects addressed, but we want them to stay in the current right of way. We want them to fix specific locations instead of wholesale widening, which is more expensive than we can afford anyway. So, the direction they're headed is a good one at the moment.”
Delegate Steve Landes has also introduced a nearly $700,000 budget amendment to pay for more state police traffic enforcement in Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties.
Delegate Landes says recent accidents that have shut down the interstate for hours raised the urgency for lawmakers to take action on I-81 improvements. He says, so far, they have only heard back from Congressman Bob Goodlatte's office in response to their letter.
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