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I-81 Corridor improvement projects underway in the Shenandoah Valley

13 new cameras will be installed along Interstate 81 in the Staunton district. | Credit: WHSV
13 new cameras will be installed along Interstate 81 in the Staunton district. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 6:04 PM EST
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It's been almost a year since the

, and there are both large and small projects on the list. Some of those smaller projects are already underway in our area.

"Operational improvements are really on the front edge of the corridor improvement program, including 51 new cameras that are up and down the 81 corridor," Ken Slack, VDOT communications specialist, said.

Slack said the cameras are currently being installed along the interstate, and 13 of them are in the Staunton district. Those cameras provide the video you can see on the 511 app and on

.

Slack said VDOT is also working with a contractor to begin installing variable message boards this spring. There will be 22 new boards throughout our area. Slack said those improvements are ones that can be done relatively quickly and at a lower cost. He added they're also ones that can have a real impact for drivers.

"If you know ahead of time that there's an incident ahead, that we've got a closure, whether it's a lane closure or a total closure with a detour, you can make decisions about your travel, and potentially avoid some of that congestion."

While the smaller projects are already under way, Slack said VDOT is also beginning work on the larger projects. He said those projects often take longer because of all of the studies and design work that needs to be done before hand.

VDOT proposed 64 different projects with a price tag of $2 billion for the interstate overall. Large-scale projects like widening four miles of I-81 between Staunton and Verona, and the addition of truck climbing lanes in Weyers Cave are expected to begin in 2023 and onward.

However, some of the design work will soon be getting underway for the widening project.

"VDOT is negotiating with a design firm," Slack said. "Basically we're going to be procuring a design firm who's going to help us with the scope and exactly the design of widening through the Staunton area."

Slack said that project will widen I-81 from milemarker 221 to 225. He said there is also a widening project in the works for the Harrisonburg area.

, widening the interstate would cost an estimated 10 to 15 million dollars for every mile of pavement.

State lawmakers approved

along the highway's corridor and truck registration fees to help pay for the upgrades.

The

is about 2.1 percent of the average price of a gallon of fuel.

Anyone who lives in cities and towns along the Interstate 81 corridor pays tax. It also includes some areas that are not right along the interstate. Everyone living in planning districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 is included. Those areas include Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Bath, Rockbridge, Alleghany, Boutetourt, Craig, Roanoke, Giles, Pulaski, Montgomery, Floyd, Bland, Wythe, Carroll, Smyth, Grayson and Washington counties.

It also covers the cities of Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Lexington, Buena Vista, Covington, Salem, Roanoke, Radford, Galax and Bristol.

The money raised through the taxes goes into a dedicated fund called the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund, which is then used to pay for repairs VDOT determined were necessary after a year of public meetings. You can find a list of all the proposed repairs in the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan

.