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Bipartisan Proposal for Funding to Improve I-81 Using Tolls Announced

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By ALAN SUDERMAN
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican lawmakers are tentatively backing a plan to add tolls to I-81 in western Virginia that could cost as much as $50 for trucks and $25 for cars to use the entire 325-mile highway.

Northam and lawmakers said at a Tuesday news conference that the interstate is in critical need of about $2 billion in upgrades to improve safety and traffic flow.

They said they support a plan advanced by the Commonwealth Transportation Board to add tolls and would allow commuters to buy an annual pass, projected to be about $30.

Northam and lawmakers said they were open to discussing other funding options, like tax increases. But they said they wanted to finalize a funding source during this year's legislative session.

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam
Media Release:

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a legislative proposal that will fund $2.2 billion in critical improvements along the Interstate 81 (1-81) Corridor. The legislation is a result of a year-long study completed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board at the direction of the General Assembly.

“Interstate 81 is the economic engine of western Virginia, and it’s time we take decisive action to enhance the safety and improve the reliability of this key corridor,” said Governor Northam. “I am committed to working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to establish a dedicated funding source that will support the critical improvements that Interstate 81 needs to move goods and people around the Commonwealth.”

The initial draft legislation would establish an Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund supported by tolls along I-81. The proposal would establish limits on toll rates and give automobiles and small trucks the ability to purchase an annual pass allowing unlimited use of I-81 for a fixed yearly fee. Revenues collected would only be used for improvements included in the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan that was adopted by the Board at its December meeting.

“Interstate 81 is a critical element of Virginia’s transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Dedicated funding will allow us to make significant capital, multimodal, and operational improvements to I-81 promoting safety and economic growth.”

The Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program legislation will be patroned by Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico in the Senate, and by Delegates Steve Landes and Terry Austin in the House.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to address longstanding issues on the I-81 Corridor,” said Senator Mark Obenshain. “I will continue to work with the Northam administration and with my colleagues in the General Assembly in hope that we can find bipartisan solutions to the critical reliability and safety issues in this region of the Commonwealth.”

“The hard-working citizens in the communities on the I-81 Corridor deserve a viable, long-term solution to the challenges of travel along this route,” said Delegate Steve Landes. “A focus on key improvements and dedicated funding for the corridor will positively affect those who rely on it every day.”

“The residents along the 81 Corridor have called for a safer, more dependable interstate,” said Delegate Chris Hurst. “The time to make these important improvements is now.”

“I-81 is a crucial resource for commerce and for the citizens of Southwest Virginia,” said Senator Bill Carrico. “Carrying 12 million trucks each year, this interstate highway is important for rural economic development in the area.”

“We are listening to the citizens who have told us that 81 needs to be improved,” said Delegate Terry Austin. “I am committed to finding a commonsense solution for I-81 to address safety and reliability.

The Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan can be found at www.va81corridor.org.