A tolling plan to help generate more than $2 billion in maintenance and expansion funds over the next decade for the 325 miles of Interstate 81 that passes through Virginia got the go-ahead from Gov. Ralph Northam and key state legislators on Jan. 8.
[Above photo by VDOT]
“Interstate 81 is the economic engine of western Virginia and it is time we take decisive action to enhance the safety and improve the reliability of this key corridor,” said Gov. Northam in a statement. “I am committed to working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to establish a dedicated funding source that will support the critical improvements that Interstate 81 needs to move goods and people around the Commonwealth.”
The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board unanimously endorsed a 12-page plan on Dec. 5 last year that recommended daytime/nighttime toll rates of 15 cents and 7.5 cents per mile, respectively, for commercial trucks, while automobiles would pay 7.5 cents and 5 cents per mile, respectively, along with a $30 annual pass fee. The board said that option generates an estimated $145 million in 2020, if implemented for the entire year, which would be sufficient to finance $2.04 billion in improvements within the next 10 years.
The initial draft legislation backing this tolling option would establish an Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund, with collected revenues designated for the plan’s recommended I-81 improvements only.
“Interstate 81 is a critical element of Virginia’s transportation infrastructure,” said Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s secretary of transportation, in a statement. “Dedicated funding will allow us to make significant capital, multimodal, and operational improvements to I-81 promoting safety and economic growth.”
In the state’s legislature, the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program legislation will be sponsored by Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico in the Senate, and by Delegates Steve Landes and Terry Austin in the House of Representatives.
“I-81 is a crucial resource for commerce and for the citizens of Southwest Virginia,” noted Sen. Carrico in a statement. “Carrying 12 million trucks each year, this interstate highway is important for rural economic development in the area.”
More details regarding the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan are available at www.va81corridor.org