State DOT officials hosted the first of three public meetings in our region for the “I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan” on June 13th, from 4:00 – 7:00 PM, at the Blue Ridge Community College Plecker Center. The officials and consultants from Kimley-Horn gave brief presentations at the start of the meeting, followed by an open house where officials reviewed a series of I-81 maps displaying areas with the highest crash frequency, crash severity, person hours of delay, and crash bottlenecks. Attendees provided input to officials by marking areas on the maps where they experience safety, congestion or other issues.

Recurring congestion is the main source of delay on Virginia’s interstates taken as a whole; however, 51% of I-81’s delay is caused by crash incidents, work zones, and holiday travel bottlenecks, which can bring traffic to a halt for an hour or more.  Consultants also reported that the large volume of trucks coupled with I-81 steep grades further reduces its capacity to move traffic. The study will evaluate not only improvements along I-81, but also what the effects will be on parallel roadways, namely US 11.

In August, the study team will release a list of targeted improvement areas and potential ways that these “project packages” can be funded. In October, the study team will release the feasibility and economic development impacts from tolling heavy commercial truck traffic. The public is invited to provide verbal or written comments on the initial phases of the study by August 6, 2018. Two more public meetings will be held in the future as the study unfolds.