Virginia DOT Launches I-81 Crash Removal Incentive Program

The Virginia Department of Transportation recently launched a vehicle crash-removal incentive program for the Interstate 81 corridor that pays a $2,500 to $3,500 bonus to towing and recovery companies that re-open travel lanes within 90 minutes of receiving notice to proceed from law enforcement on the scene.

[Above photo by the Virginia DOT]

The Virginia DOT and the Virginia State Police in coordination with the members of the Virginia Statewide Traffic Incident Management Committee are supporting this program – known as “81 TRIP” – to help to lessen the impact of crashes on traffic congestion along I-81 while meeting aggressive clearance goals. The program is part of the $2 billion I-81 Corridor Improvement Program approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December 2018.

Stephen Brich, Virginia DOT Commissioner

“Virginia’s economy takes a hit of up to $1,200 for every minute that drivers spend in traffic,” noted Stephen Brich, Virginia DOT’s commissioner, in a statement. “Incidents are the number-one cause of congestion on I-81, so we can make a real improvement on that interstate by getting lanes reopened more rapidly.”

This program helps to reduce lost-time costs, improve reliability, and lessen the risk of secondary crashes that can occur in vehicle queues as secondary crashes account for 20 percent for all highway crashes, Virginia DOT said. It also includes financial penalties for participating companies if roadway clearance delays exceed three hours.

“Interstate 81 has a high percentage of trucks and rolling to mountainous terrain which contributes to the highest incident-related delay among interstates in Virginia,” explained Dave Covington, the agency’s I-81 program delivery director.

Photo by the Virginia DOT

“We have seen success with towing incentives on interstates in the Richmond area since 2017, so we expect similar positive results on the I-81 corridor,” he said.

An initial study of TRIP performance along I-95 outside Richmond conducted by the Virginia Transportation Research Council found that incentives help reduced average roadway crash clearance times by 62 minutes.

The Virginia DOT has so far approved 21 locally based towing and recovery companies to participate in 81 TRIP, with each firm assigned a portion of the 325-mile I-81 corridor.

When dispatched to an incident, towing and recovery companies must have all of their equipment on scene within 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day or day of week, the agency noted.

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