New survey shows voters' concerns with Interstate 81

ROANOKE, Va. – Legislators could face consequences if they don't fight to fix Interstate 81 in the upcoming General Assembly session. That is the finding of a recent survey of 500 registered voters in the 81 corridor. 

"My takeaway from this poll is, citizens in the corridor who vote and  use 81 want it fixed, they want it fixed now, they're willing to pay for it and they're going to hold legislators accountable," said Jeff Southard, vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

According to the survey, two-thirds of corridor voters say they travel on I-81 at least weekly. The majority of voters say they do not feel safe traveling on the interstate, and 88 percent of voters favor a $2 billion investment in improvements, ranging from added lanes to better signage.

Related to funding, voters prefer tolls on freight trucks first, both a gas tax and a sales tax increase in the I-81 corridor second, and tolls on every vehicle with a reduced annual pass option third. In its upcoming session, the General Assembly will be presented with the full improvement proposal from the secretary of transportation. 

"If we can have some targeted improvements and then figure out how we're going to pay for that, it would help businesses and economic development and increase the reliability of the road," said Delegate Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke City.

Rasoul is hoping to have a clear picture of the improvements and funding sources during the session. He says many legislators are on the same page -- 81 needs to be fixed.

"Going into the General Assembly session, I think you're going to find a lot of political will to try to get something done," said Rasoul. 

The General Assembly session begins Jan. 9.

The survey was done by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.