Buchanan looking for answers to Interstate 81 problem - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Buchanan looking for answers to Interstate 81 problem

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Peace and quiet.

It's what helped draw Larry Hall to the small town of Buchanan and convinced him to run for mayor in 2012.

But that peace and quiet is being disturbed more and more by a familiar sound.

Tractor trailers, lots of them, turning Main Street into a mini highway.

"When there's an accident on the interstate just getting onto Route 11 with the bumper to bumper tractor trailers, it's almost impossible to get out and go home," Hall said.

We pulled the numbers from VDOT and found the most dangerous stretch of Interstate 81 in Virginia runs right through Buchanan.

When there's a crash in the area, traffic is rerouted onto Route 11 which runs through the small town.

Plus, it's happening a lot more than you would think.

Numbers given to us by the town show an average of four times per month, or nearly once every week, interstate traffic is flowing through Buchanan.

It creates a dangerous situation for many who live and work there like Kay Ryder. She works at the Buchanan library.

"We don't have any patrons coming in because they're scared to park, they can't get here," she said. "They're scared to get out of their cars actually with the big trucks coming through so fast."

But it speaks to a bigger problem, the growing number of crashes on I-81 in an isolated stretch.

"It's getting to the point where something needs to be done," said Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief John Manspile.

He said more and more of his department's focus is on a seven mile stretch of I-81 where crashes are on the rise.

"I'd probably say at least 70 percent of our calls are based right here just on the interstate," Manspile said. "I do not feel safe out here next to the interstate. It's actually a pretty hard job trying to keep your men safe, looking for them and doing the job you need to do."

The stretch between mile markers 167 and 169 is particularly dangerous.

Numbers from the Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department show there were 25 tractor trailer wrecks in that area in 2013.

Manspile and plenty of other leaders in Buchanan and Botetourt County are pointing the finger at VDOT, saying significant improvements need to be made to I-81.

They say it's especially a problem where the interstate curves.

So we took those concerns to the agency.

"This is certainly something we are aware of," said VDOT Spokesman Jason Bond. "We've seen the crash data."

Bond said flashing signs and rumble strips have been added to keep drivers safe.

But the agency is well aware this is only a Band-Aid covering a much bigger and expensive problem.

"We've done some of those short term things to help drivers navigate those curves better," he said. "But really the ultimate solution, and we know, is to realign the road."

It's a project that would cost millions, money that's not in VDOT's current six year budget.

Any major improvements would be years away.

It means the sight and sound of tractor trailers on Main Street isn't leaving Buchanan anytime soon.

It serves as a stark reminder for Manspile that this will continue to be business as usual.

When we asked him if a truly horrible wreck is nearing, he had a simple answer.

"Oh yeah. Our time's about up."

VDOT said it's really up to drivers and citizens in Botetourt County to demand a change.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board, which chooses what projects get funding, will have a public meeting this spring.

That's when people can voice their concerns and lobby for the necessary money.

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