State Transportation Board hears from locals on transportation wants, needs

We hear the concerns our viewers have about area roads, from I-81 to US-460, and Wednesday night the state transportation secretary was in Roanoke to hear from residents and local leaders on infrastructure wants and needs.

In the last two weekends, two tractor-trailer crashes wreaked havoc on I-81.

Perfect examples for Botetourt County Fire and EMS chief Jason Ferguson to share with the Commonwealth Transportation Board about what happens here.

"Right now, a tractor-trailer blocking the whole south or northbound side, or the whole interstate, as long as there's not an injury or fatality it does not rise to the grading," said Ferguson. 

Ferguson is talking about Smart Scale. State leaders use it to decide what projects get money.

Because no one was hurt or killed, currently no metric properly accounts for it, even though traffic sat for nearly an entire workday.

These are the kind of things the board wanted to hear Wednesday night as members look forward.

"We need to shape those long-range plans so that when we look at putting our budget together and smart scale projects come in, those projects need to be included in those long-range plans," said Jason Bond, VDOT spokesman. 

State Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine listened to our local leaders ask for help with the usual suspects -- I-81, US-460, US-220 and rail.

Changes to Smart Scale are coming, and Valentine shared other minor improvements like rumble strips and chevrons that are expected to help.

"In a year's time, we did a study on I-81, we identified the priorities, we prioritized them, and found the funding, we're going to be addressing $2.2 billion in need along the 81 corridor," said Valentine. 

Crashes like these also then force cars onto roads like Route 11, ill-fit for the traffic.

Ferguson's comments were well-received by Valentine, and he hopes something changes.

"The push is to really try and find the long term solution that's not going to be the Band-Aid, and it's pricey," said Ferguson.