WEYERS CAVE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia lawmakers are calling on Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to help secure federal funding for Interstate 81 improvements.

25th District Delegate Steve Landes and 15 other state legislators sent a letter to Virginia's lawmakers in Washington, D.C. urging them to fund improvement on I-81 throughout the commonwealth.

This year, the General Assembly approved increased truck registration fees and gas taxes in the I-81 corridor to fund improvements. But they say in the letter, that's just a first step and more support is needed.

05/10/2019 Release from the Office of 25th District Delegate Steve Landes:

WEYERS CAVE, VA – Delegate R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, and 15 other members of the General Assembly have written to members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation urging action for assistance for safety improvements and congestion relief on Interstate 81.

"While we have taken the first steps to address the dire need of safety improvements and congestion relief for Interstate 81, we are seeking federal assistance to help alleviate these problems,” said Landes. “A bipartisan group of Virginia’s Delegates and Senators have written to members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation that represent the areas along the I-81 corridor to requesting that they secure funding for Interstate 81. As noted, I-81 has become a dangerous road. The General Assembly has acted on I-81. It’s time for Congress to do the same.”

Senators Bill Carrico, Ben Chafin, Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, Emmett Hanger, and Mark Obenshain, along with Delegates Terry Austin, Ronnie Campbell, Chris Collins, Chris Hurst, Terry Kilgore, Steve Landes, Dave LaRock, Todd Pillion, Sam Rasoul, and Tony Wilt were signatories of the letter sent to U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Congressmen Ben Cline, Morgan Griffith and Jennifer Wexton. The letter urges the Delegation to secure federal funding to subsidize the much-needed improvements and augment the funding provided legislation passed by the General Assembly to establish a funding stream for Interstate 81. The text of the May 8, 2019 letter is attached.

Text of May 2019 Letter:

Dear Senator Warner, Senator Kaine, Representative Griffith, Representative Cline and
Representative Wexton:

This past session the Virginia General Assembly determined that funding was necessary to improve Interstate 81 as well as the other interstates within our commonwealth. Through bipartisan compromise, the General Assembly agreed to support these projects by increasing truck registration fees and raising the regional gas tax along the I-81 corridor as well as Virginia’s wholesale diesel rates. Statewide, total revenue raised in the first year is estimated to be $150 million, with the amount increasing to $280 million annually by Virginia’s Fiscal Year 2022. This increase is based on a three-year phase-in of the diesel fuels tax, allowing the trucking industry to adjust its rate schedules accordingly. These newly implemented funding streams will do much to address the repairs, updates and upgrades necessary to ensure that our constituents and commerce in Virginia are safe to travel in a reliable manner.

During this process, it was determined that the funds appropriated should be allocated based on the proportionality of tractor trailer traffic traveling along each highway. With forty-one percent of such traffic traveling along Interstate 81, these statewide provisions are projected to generate $90 million in the first year and increase to $150 million annually when fully implemented. I-81 is a major artery for the east coast of the United States. Unfortunately, this 50’s era highway has become notorious within Virginia for its unreliable nature. It currently averages forty-five accidents per year that cause delays of four hours or more. In short, Interstate 81 has become a dangerous and unreliable road that has caused unnecessary loss of life, revenue, and economic opportunity.

These new revenues will accommodate funding for the $2.2 billion necessary for the high priority improvements. However, these fixes are not a panacea, and this is not solely a regional or statewide issue. Our interstate highway system is by definition a national matter. Interstate 81, in its 325-mile entirety within Virginia, was identified with $4 billion in needed improvements. These much-needed improvements deserve funding that will only continue to improve the safety, reliability, and dependability of this highway.

Because Interstate 81 serves as a major east coast commerce corridor, we feel that this endeavor is in the best economic interest of the nation and therefore urge you to secure federal funding to subsidize these improvements.

Thank you for your consideration,