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SALEM—Governor Ralph Northam today announced amendments to Senate Bill 1716 and House Bill 2718, legislation passed by the General Assembly providing $151 million in dedicated funding for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan. The amendments would ensure that the $2 billion program approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) in December 2018 is implemented, while also generating critical revenue for interstates across the Commonwealth.
The amendments create equity in transportation funding by bringing Virginia’s truck registration fees, and diesel and road tax rates more in line with those of the other states along the 855-mile I-81 corridor. The funding mechanisms also include a 2.1 percent increase in the regional motor fuels tax along the I-81 corridor, ensuring all users contribute to funding I-81.
These amendments establish dedicated funding for I-81 and Virginia’s other interstates, including I-95, I-64, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). While $151 million will be invested in I-81, I-95 will receive $40 million, I-64 will receive $28 million, $20 million will go to the NVTA, and $43 million is reserved for investment in other interstates as prioritized by the CTB.
“This year I worked closely with Democratic and Republican legislators to reach a long-term agreement that would address the critical safety and reliability issues along the I-81 corridor and make historic investments in the economic competitiveness of this vital region of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “We can’t wait another year to find a solution—I am pleased to offer amendments that will establish dedicated funding sources to support improvements that will lead to a major reduction in crashes and travel delays.”
Senate Bill 1716, introduced by Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico, and House Bill 2718, introduced by Delegates Steve Landes and Terry Austin, contained a governance structure, an Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund, and toll financing, but the funding was not included in the version of the bill sent to the Governor.
“Interstate 81 is a critical element of Virginia’s transportation network,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The urgency surrounding I-81 has created the opportunity to establish dedicated funding for capital and operational investments in I-81 promoting safety, economic growth, and investment for all Virginians.”
The 325 miles of Interstate 81 (I-81) that run through western and Southwest Virginia connect five metropolitan areas and 30 institutions of higher learning and serve as a significant corridor for carrying more than $300 billion in commerce and goods. While both the vehicle miles traveled on I-81 in this region have increased significantly over the years, the corridor has remained largely unchanged and improvements to the interstate underfunded.
“Fixing long-standing issues with I-81 is a top priority to me and my constituents who use this road every day,” said Senator Bill Carrico. “Finding a funding mechanism to support improvements that will make Interstate 81 safer is our common goal. With almost 50 percent of all Virginia goods being transported on the hundreds of miles of I-81, and 11 million trucks per year traveling this interstate, we need to work towards crucial improvements as soon as possible to make travel safer for the public.”
“I’m glad the Governor is initiating a start at fixing I-81 without further delay,” said Senator John S. Edwards. “The problems with I-81 are more than inconvenient and effect the economy of the entire Commonwealth.”
“This is a rare opportunity for the Roanoke and New River Valley regions to get the dedicated funding for Interstate 81 that we deserve,” said Delegate Chris Hurst. “This plan will also help fund transportation projects around the Commonwealth and should be seen as a major investment in critical infrastructure for everyone’s benefit.”
“One of my top priorities for the 2019 General Assembly session was to support positive solutions to the dilemma of I-81,” said Delegate Tony Wilt. “Through further engagement with the Administration and stakeholders, I am pleased to see a bipartisan effort to improve I-81 come before us. My family business is part of the trucking industry. While this funding plan will certainly pose additional costs to our business, there is absolutely a cost to all citizens and businesses along the corridor if we continue to do nothing. This plan is a more equitable approach than some previously considered and will fund improvements that result in more efficient traffic flow and a decrease in the terrible loss of life so many families have had to endure.”
A survey by the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance last December found that area residents were looking for immediate action on the safety and reliability issues along the corridor. This amendment responds to the call for action by legislators, residents of the communities surrounding the I-81 corridor, and businesses to address the needs of I-81 and all of Virginia’s interstate highway corridors.
The Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan identified top problem areas and prioritized potential solutions based on public input. It can be found at www.va81corridor.org.
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