Interstate 81 safety improvement construction underway in Botetourt County

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 5:56 AM EDT
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BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Interstate 81 has known trouble spots where wrecks and miles-long backups frequently occur. One such area is the southbound lanes between miles markers 167 and 169 near the Buchanan exit to Route 11 in Botetourt County.

“Now this location in particular has had one of the highest crash rates along the entire Interstate 81 corridor," VDOT spokesperson Jason Bond said.

One of the reasons for the frequent crashes is exit 167.

“It’s in an area where it’s difficult sometimes for drivers to exit," Bond explained. "It creates a little bit of a speed differential and a conflict point there when drivers are trying to exit from interstate 81.”

It has a short exit lane and is tucked into a curve, which causes people to dramatically reduce their speed on I-81.

“So by removing this ramp, it’ll help traffic flow in this area and it’ll help reduce that differential in speed where people are slowing down to make this exit," Bond said.

VDOT hopes this exit closure is a relatively minor inconvenience, because drivers can still take exit 168 to get to Route 11 and Buchanan.

“We’ve done similar improvements to what we’re doing here," Bond said.

Along with closing and removing the ramp, VDOT will be repaving the travel lanes, applying new pavement markers and installing underground pavement drains.

“Drivers can expect some nighttime lane closures for the paving and the speed limit in the work zone to be reduced to 60 MPH," Bond said.

In total, the nearly year-long project is estimated to cost $3.7 million. However, this money is not part of the infrastructure improvement budget that came out of government funding discussions.

“What we have been able to do is put some funds towards doing these lower cost, short-term improvements," Bond said. "And we have seen some success in years past with these types of improvements.”

Construction is expected to last until summer 2021.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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