Transportation officials provide update on I-81 improvements

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Improvements to Interstate 81 are accelerating three years after the General Assembly approved a new funding stream for the highway.

Thursday afternoon, state and local officials received a status report on operational changes and major construction projects that will address concerns about traffic volume and highway safety.

With the crush of traffic and frequent accidents on interstate 81, state officials acknowledge the need to act as quickly as possible.

Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller spoke on behalf of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“He’s particularly interested in this project, the I-81 corridor,” Miller told members of the I-81 Advisory Committee meeting at the Hotel Roanoke. “He understands, as we all do, that it continues to need resources to be as viable as it needs to be.”

Botetourt County Delegate Terry Austin (R-19) was elected chairman of the panel.

“We’re very challenged with I-81, 320 miles through the Commonwealth,” Austin said. “It’s in tremendous need of improvement and that’s what this committee is tasked with doing.”

Members received an encouraging report from state transportation officials - of work completed, major projects moving closer to construction and a dedicated funding stream that will pay for improvements through 2033 and beyond.

“We had not seen improvements on I-81 since the ‘50s when it was constructed, to any magnitude,” Austin told WDBJ7 in an interview. “And the benefit and the value of that (additional funding) is these improvements are over all of the 320-mile corridor. It’s not in any one transportation district.”

The committee heard from one speaker who delivered an urgent plea for greater speed enforcement, noting recent crashes that killed VDOT employees.

Austin cited the staffing shortage that continues to affect the Virginia State Police, but promised a closer look at the issues the speaker raised.

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