Adding tolls to Interstate 81 is off the table for now.
There’s been a major push this legislative session to find funding to improve the major highway. Bills making their way through the general assembly have been amended to exclude mention of tolling.
Some lawmakers feel it’s the best way to move the bills forward since a consensus on the tolling issue has not been reached.
Many agree, however, that improvements are needed along I-81 to reduce congestion and enhance safety.
“The part that bothers me the most about 81 is the trucks. There’s just a lot of them and it makes passing them difficult. It jams up the interstate a bit. And it’s kind of dangerous,” says Roanoke native Melanie Dekerlegand.
How best to fund those improvements is still up for debate.
“What we saw was that there just really wasn’t enough consensus among legislators and stakeholders to come to common ground on how to most appropriately and effectively fund the improvements that we need. So Senator Obenshain and Delegate Landes chose to amend their bill,” says Rebekah Gunn, vice president of public policy for the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The bills are still moving forward for now, but with a revised focus.
“Senator Obenshain and Delegate Landes’ new language in the bill does set up this committee to look at projects along I-81 and potential funding options,” says Gunn.
Public input will continue to be gathered to determine the best way to move forward.
“If they could find another way to fund it, I think that would be great. They’re adding toll lanes on 77 in Charlotte and the communities around there that commute on those roads daily are very against it,” says Dekerlegand.
Other proposed funding measures have included a motor fuels tax.