Battlefields to Battle I-81 Expansion

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

Anyone who drives on interstate 81 sees the need for expansion. But, the changes could affect areas surrounding the roadway.

Some of those areas include several civil war battlefields in the valley. TV-3 took a closer look at the looming problem.

I-81 runs straight through the historical battlefield at New Market. It was 4,000 acres back then, but has been whittled down to just 230 Monday. And with 81's expansion, that figure probably will shrink again.

“A larger reconstruction of 81 to say eight lanes would obviously go beyond the existing right-of-way and would have a major impact on at least five of the 10 battlefields here in the Shenandoah Valley National Historic District," says Howard Kittell of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

Kittell says the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has talked to VDOT about reducing the effects of an 81 expansion on the battlefields.

"Lowering the profile of the road, suppressing it, suppressing the road using berms," explains Kittell. "There's a lot of techniques that could be studied and built into the overall design of the project."

Kittell is also concerned with area tourism. He says more traffic delays on 81 would not only hurt the battlefields, but local businesses as well.

This weekend, there'll be more than 2,000 re-enactors here for the Battle of New Market. And the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation is hoping the improvements in 81 don't prevent them from doing this in the future.

Kittell says the unique thing about the valley battlefields is you're actually where the battle was fought. That's not the case with many other sites around the country.

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