I-81 funding a casualty of state budget negotiations

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 6:51 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - One casualty of Virginia’s budget negotiations was additional funding for improvements to Interstate 81.

Earlier this year, both the House of Delegates and the State Senate approved the funding to accelerate safety improvements, but the money wasn’t included in the compromise budget approved this week at a special session of the General Assembly.

Lawmakers who represent the I-81 corridor criticized the decision.

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) said it was not just a matter of convenience, but survival.

“I have survived cancer. I have survived two life-threatening incidents on Interstate 81. And I will tell you, I think my odds of surviving cancer are a hell of a lot better than surviving another wreck on Interstate 81,” Obenshain said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon.

Also disappointed was Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt Co.), a budget negotiator and transportation committee chair. He said efforts to address the issue will continue, as the region seeks parity with Interstate 64 improvements east of Richmond.