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Interstate 81: A 60-Year Concern

The Interstate 81 corridor covers an expansive 325 miles across Virginia, making it the longest interstate highway within the borders of our state. Not only do thousands of our neighbors travel I-81 as a part of daily life, but the highway has consistently been a major economic driver for the Commonwealth. By 2040, it is projected that nearly 20 million truck trips on I-81 will transport three-quarters of a trillion dollars’ worth of goods, every year. The revenue potential of the interstate despite its rural geography make I-81 a vital, yet crucially overlooked artery to the heart of Virginia. 

Sixty years ago, in 1958, the design plans for Interstate 81 were set in motion, and the final stretches south of Roanoke were open to Virginians a little over a decade later by 1971. Fast forward to the present—the realities of current shipping and commerce needs are in considerable contrast to the plans for the interstate all those years ago. I-81 was originally designed to accommodate a mere one-third of the current volume of passenger vehicles traveling I-81 daily. Moreover, the 28% of current travel volume made up of freight trucks is nearly double the original capacity the highway was designed to support.

Times have changed – so why hasn’t I-81?

The largely two-lane road is the site of over 2,000 crashes per year due to capacity overreach and terrain hazards. And with an average of 30 of those crashes each year taking longer than six hours to clear from the roadway, I-81 has become an unreliable and delay-filled means of transportation of freight. 
Read the full blog post and more at vbtva.com

 Survey Results

VBT collected survey results from over 4,600 Virginia residents living along the Interstate 81 corridor. When asked, "How would you rate I-81 overall?", less than 1% of respondents rated the overall condition of the highway as "excellent." 65% of respondents gave the highway a rating of "poor" or below average. 

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Transportation News 

Virginia transportation officials seek public input in new I-81 study (Bristol Herald Courier) The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation are asking for public feedback while developing a plan to study the length of the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan (Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board) The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation are developing a plan to study the entire length of the Interstate 81 corridor in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I-81 lights, Slabtown Road bridge added to transportation plan (Herald-Mail Media) A lighting project for Interstate 81 in West Virginia and a new bridge in western Washington County are in the funding pipeline.​

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