October 23, 2019 3:30 PM, EDT

Virginia Board Approves I-81 Improvement Projects

Virginia I-81Trucks rolling on I-81/77 in Wytheville, Va. (Russ MacNeil)

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Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved 31 projects for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program.

The program allocates funds and outlines schedules for projects along the route, which runs through Virginia for 325 miles. The Commonwealth Transportation Board is a 17-member group, appointed by the governor, that allocates highway funding, designates routes and funds airports, seaports and public transportation.

The projects will be added to the state’s Six-Year Improvement Program, which outlines anticipated plans for transportation projects through fiscal 2025. The projects slated for advancement include truck climbing lanes, widening efforts and extensions of acceleration and deceleration lanes.

According to a Virginia Department of Transportation press release issued Oct. 17, the projects were advanced based on data-driven factors, such as cost, benefits and readiness for construction. The improvements are expected to lower the number of crashes and reduce the hours of delay on the corridor by about 6 million hours each year. VDOT data indicates there are at least 45 crashes per year on I-81 that have clearance times greater than four hours.

“With new revenues available as a result of legislation passed in April of this year, the [Commonwealth Transportation Board] is committed to advancing and delivering these critical projects to those who depend on Interstate 81,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said. “Today’s action moves forward the first of a suite of improvements expected to reduce the number of crashes along this corridor.”

VDOT’s plan for I-81 improvements indicates that maintenance of traffic also is considered in terms of project delivery. According to VDOT, feedback from industry representatives regarding project delivery time frames also is being incorporated. Schedules may change based on financing options and collaboration with industry members.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board also approved $18.9 million to support the I-395/95 Commuter Choice Program with 10 multimodal projects selected by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). The funds will support initiatives such as new bus services and transit incentives.

The transportation commissions representing Northern Virginia and the Potomac and Rappahannock areas administer the I-395/95 Commuter Choice Program in tandem with VDOT, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the toll operating company Transurban.

“The Commuter Choice Program illustrates the commonwealth’s commitment to creating safe, reliable travel choices across Virginia’s transportation system,” Valentine said. “Multimodal investments along this corridor support the commonwealth’s economic competitiveness and create a more seamless network for people to access jobs, education, health care and opportunity.”

Additionally, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded a contract for $5.7 million to Corman Kokosing Construction Co. to replace a bridge carrying state Route 207 over the Mattaponi River in Caroline County, southeast of Fredericksburg. Based in Annapolis Junction, Md., Corman specializes in bridge, sewer and tunnel construction.

According to VDOT, portions of the bridge are structurally deficient. The press release identifies this section of Route 207 as a vital connector route for freight traffic between I-95 and U.S. Route 301 near Fort A.P. Hill, which is a U.S. Army training center. The project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2021.

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