BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – Safety improvements are coming to one of the most dangerous stretches of Interstate 81 in Virginia.
Winding curves on the stretch of I-81 through Botetourt County near Buchanan oftentimes make it a very dangerous area, as it has one of the highest crash rates on the interstate.
The most recent data from VDOT shows 52 crashes in that section in a two-year period. Half of those were caused by drivers failing to navigate the curves.
“With the speeds and the types of vehicles, the potential for there to be a slight miscalculation that winds up being deadly for somebody is very real,” said Botetourt County Fire and EMS Chief Jason Ferguson.
Ferguson knows the dangers all too well.
“Literally it’s a life safety issue for us as first responders as much as it is for those people involved in the crashes,” Ferguson said. “I can recall stories where people have talked about diving over the guard rail because they felt the car was within inches of taking them out.”
VDOT is launching a project Oct. 1 to make low-cost changes that have already improved safety on the northbound side.
Now the focus is southbound.
Crews will be:
- Repaving the road to increase traction
- Adding new pavement markers
- Installing underground drains
- Permanently closing an exit that sees minimal traffic.
“It’ll help reduce some of the speed differentials, the lane changes associated with the exiting vehicles there so that should help improve safety,” VDOT spokesperson Jason Bond said.
Bond said the project is expected to wrap up in summer 2021.