LEXINGTON, Va. (WFXR) – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is inviting members of the public to attend the first meeting of the I-81 Advisory Committee. With more than $860 million in dedicated funding for improvements along the I-81 corridor, the committee’s responsibilities will include deciding where the money will be spent.
“VDOT is ready to start designing projects for Interstate 81 to make these improvements, but first we need to know where this committee is going to set the priorities before we can develop those detailed plans to move forward with those improvements and schedules of when those improvements may occur,” says Jason Bond, a VDOT spokesperson.
In 2018, several Virginia state transportation agencies conducted a study of the I-81 corridor for improvement on travel needs. As a result of the study, Governor Ralph Northam and members of the General Assembly approved dedicated funding to the I-81 corridor for the first time and enacted legislation on the creation of an advisory committee, which will help make recommendations and prioritize new projects. The committee is set to meet four times a year and will report to Governor Northam and the General Assembly each December.
One of the projects residents in the area can expect includes an additional lane from Troutville through parts of the New River Valley.
“That’s a big safety improvement, an operational improvement that should increase capacity along Interstate 81, one of the most congested portions of the corridor, says Bond.
The committee consists of 15 voting members: seven Virginia lawmakers, three Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) members representing the Bristol, Salem and Staunton districts and the five chairs of the planning district commissions.
With concerns that the funding is sourced from residential tax dollars, legislation has provided revenues for the fund through new registration fee on commercial-vehicles and diesel, regional, and road taxes.
Bond says, in terms of time frame, residents can expect much longer before they are able to see any new changes have been made along the I-81 corridor.
“It’s gonna take some time to develop the plans, to construct the new lane or implement some of these other improvements. Those are just concepts at this point, so those new plans have not been designed. And once we understand from the Interstate 81 Advisory Committee what they want to prioritize, then we can move forward with designing those improvements and ultimately unto delivering them,” says Bond.
The I-81 Advisory Committee meeting will be held this Tuesday, August 13th at 2 p.m. at the Hampton Inn in Lexington.