Local legislators focus on Interstate 81 at legislative session

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Breakfast and politics were served up Wednesday morning at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast.

Topics like healthcare, budgets and Interstate 81.

Senator Emmett Hanger and Delegates Tony Wilt and Steve Landes came together to give remarks about the upcoming General Assembly session. They spoke about healthcare, the budget and the hottest topic was Interstate 81.

"There seems to be a consensus that they're ready for something to happen, and they realize that it's going to take additional money. I think part of the drawback in the past was the 'T' word... taxes," said Wilt.

There are a few options for funding solutions to I-81 congestion and crashes, including gas taxes, sales taxes, tolls, or a combination of the options.

"Now we're at what I would view a crisis point, where we need funding sources to maintain our adequate infrastructure," said Hanger.

All three legislators said they want to see things happen with the interstate this session.

"Governor Northam seems supportive to try to get something accomplished this session. The goal would be to see if we can get things started later this year for those that are ready to roll," said Landes.

"I'm optimistic that we're going to see some positive measures to move forward for I-81 improvements," said Wilt.

They say it is not only important for those living in the Valley, but also tourists who visit and whose money supports a lot of the local economy.

"And if people are white knuckle driving down Interstate 81, they're just going to want to get right on out of here rather than looking at the beautiful scenery," said Hanger.

"It's also important for the western part of the state and Virginia's economy, so that's why it's urgent that we do something," said Landes.

The General Assembly session begins on Jan. 9, 2019.