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Local officials discuss possible I-81 concerns and improvements

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ROANOKE, Va. – I-81 has seen a 12 percent increase in traffic and a 55 percent increase in delays, due to crashes, construction, and bad weather, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. 

Due to the increase of congestion, on Tuesday in Washington D.C., the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce spoke with Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine to share possible solutions. 

“Improvements to 81 have been on the radar for a very long time and it’s getting to the point that we can’t just wait any longer,” said Rebekah Gunn vice president of public policy of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Transportation improvements are like a leaky roof. You can just sit on it and its worse and more expensive down the road.

VDOT is now conducting a study to assess the interstate and is scheduled to complete its study and present it before the 2019 session.

“On the state level, VDOT is looking at where the pain points are on 81, where some of the worse safety and congestion issues are, and they are working to determine what those solutions (are) if they were to be improved and (what it) would cost,” said Gunn.

Some ways that were mentioned to fund the improvements include gas taxes, truck only tolls, and other funding options.

Gunn tells me that the truck-only tolls is a complex issue and they are working to find a solution.

“When sb971 was going through the general assembly, we advocated for an amendment to that bill that would require VDOT to look specifically at the economical impact on truck-only tolls, on local industries because that is very important to us,” said Gunn.

VDOT will be hosting a public meeting for all to attend on August 28 at the Salem Civic Center.