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Gov. Northam signs bills to fund I-81 projects

Gov. Northam visited southwest Virginia and signed two pieces of legislation Friday.

ROANOKE, Va. – Lawmakers are ready to make travel along Interstate 81 safer for all. Gov. Ralph Northam signed two pieces of legislation Friday for dedicated funding to improve the interstate. 

The commonwealth will spend close to $2.2 billion to improve parts of interstate 81. But only 41% of the money is going to the 81 corridor according to Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.

"The funding is going to be phased in every three years. Some of it will be Pay-Go. Pay as we actually need the money and others will be leveraged to issue bonds." 

It will be about $150 million a year when fully implemented. Interstate 64 and Interstate 95 will get improvements. 

"Our other interstates are going to be receiving funding as well because we are tying the funding to vehicle miles traveled by trucks," said Valentine. 

Northam signed two bills Friday in Salem regarding the Interstate 81 corridor improvement plans and funds for the projects. 

"Many of the improvements are going to benefit trucks, truck lanes, interchanges to make our roadways safer," said Valentine. 

Joyce Waugh, president and CEO of the Roanoke Regional Chamber has been pushing for improvements along with a group of other regional chambers.

"Safety and reliability is hand in hand. It's been over capacity for a long time," said Waugh. 

She says transportation is key to economic development, especially when it comes to transporting goods and services. 

"We carry far more trucks on 81 throughway to get to the northeast and southeast and then the terrain which makes it even more difficult and tricky for drivers. 

Drivers along 81 can expect crews to start working in the next few months. There are 64 project identified. 

The legislation will take effect July 1. 

About the Author:

Irisha joined the WSLS news team in January 2017 after spending four years as a reporter in Georgia.