Transportation leaders advance 31 projects to improve Interstate 81

Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 8:38 PM EDT
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Plans to widen 13 miles of Interstate 81 in Roanoke and Botetourt counties are among more than two dozen projects advanced by the Commonwealth Transportation Board last week, in an effort to address safety and improve traffic flow on the busy highway.

The action last week by the CTB, which added 31 projects to Virginia's six-year highway improvement program, is designed to support initiatives of the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program.

The most expensive project advanced by the CTB calls for adding one additional lane to both northbound and southbound Interstate 81 between mile marker 137 in Salem and mile marker 150 near Daleville in Botetourt County. Construction of the additional lanes is expected to cost more than $242 million.

Other projects in our region advanced by the CTB involve the extension of on-and-off ramps in Rockbridge and Wythe counties, and the extension of access ramps leading to a rest area north of Exit 150 in Botetourt County. The combined cost for constructing those projects is expected to exceed $40 million.

With approval to move forward, VDOT expects to develop a timeline for construction next year.

Funding for Interstate 81 upgrades was made possible through the passage of legislation during the 2019 General Assembly session, which calls for an increase in tractor-trailer registration fees. Lawmakers also increased diesel taxes to 2.03% of the statewide average wholesale price per gallon, effective July 2021.

“With new revenues available as a result of legislation passed in April of this year, the CTB is committed to advancing and delivering these critical projects to those who depend on Interstate 81,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a statement released Monday. “Today’s action moves forward the first of a suite of improvements expected to reduce the number of crashes along this corridor by 450 and hours of delay by more than six million hours each year.”

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