The Virginia Department of Transportation hosted its first public hearing regarding potential improvements to the 325 miles of Interstate 81 in the Commonwealth. The hearing, June 6 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, drew around 50 attendees, many with concerns about slow accident removal. In 2017, 30 separate accidents on I-81 took more than six hours each to clear. No numbers were available for accidents that took between an hour and six hours.
The state of Virginia has directed its Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment (OIPI) to develop an I-81 corridor improvement plan and report the results to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
The plan will:
• Identify segments of I-81 for improvement
• Identify targeted set of improvements for each segment that can be financed by evaluated financing options
• Include corridor-wide incident management strategies
• Evaluate concepts to minimize impacts on local truck traffic and diversion of truck traffic
• Identify truck parking needs
• Assess economic impacts on corridor from tolling only heavy commercial trucks
Interstate 81 has the lowest time spent for recurring delays (rush hour, expected holiday traffic, etc) of any Interstate highway in Virginia. It also has the highest time spent on delays caused by accidents.
The next public hearings, slated for August, will address recommendations for improvements and the possibility of charging tolls for tractor-trailers using Interstate 81.