Congestion on Interstate 81 in Virginia.

By Quintin McClellan, research specialist, ARTBA

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and several Republican state legislators intend to introduce legislation that would implement tolls along Interstate 81 to generate an estimated $2.2 billion to fund safety and reliability improvements. The governor and his allies are still developing the proposal, and say they’re also keeping gas tax and sales tax options on the table.

There are more than 2,000 crashes on the road annually, about a quarter of which involve heavy trucks, according to a December 2018 Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) report. Northam’s plan to widen parts of the highway, lengthen merging lanes, and make other safety improvements is drawn from the report, which details the most effective I-81 projects that could be implemented within 10 years.

ARTBA member Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, said “it’s time to fix I-81.”

In a show of bipartisanship, Virginia Sen. Mark Boneshaking (R-26), Sen. Bill Carrico (R-40), Del. Steve Landes (R-25), and Del. Terry Austin (R-19) said they will present an interstate improvement program during the 2019 General Assembly session.

A November 2018 ARTBA study concluded that  $2 billion in highway investment along  Virginia’s I-81 would generate more than twice as much economic activity along the  corridor support over 15,240 local jobs. The improved roadway conditions and reduced congestion also would spur more manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, and retail businesses activity.