New senate bill aims to reduce traffic issues on Interstate 81

Published: Jan. 18, 2018 at 6:05 PM EST
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Many people around the Shenandoah Valley have been

for years. A new bill in the Virginia Senate proposes a potential solution to alleviate traffic and solve one of the problems many drivers say frustrates them the most.

, introduced by Mark Obenshain (representing parts of Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Warren, and Rappahannock counties) aims to help resolve traffic problems on the interstate by restricting tractor trailers to using the right lane in parts of the interstate meeting certain criteria.

These zones would have to be a minimum of three miles long on a portion of highway with an incline lasting at least one mile or in an area with at least five miles between exits.

That would include, for instance, the stretch of I-81 between Verona and Weyers Cave, where there are no exits for eight miles.

The zones would be clearly indicated by signs displaying the right lane restriction and the penalty for violations.

Some people are happy lawmakers are trying to address the problem.

"I believe that would help, yeah," said Mark Crusemire, a traveler on I-81. "Because some of these guys just aren't doing the speed limit. Or like side by side doing like 60-65 in a 70 mile per hour zone and they got a lot of cars backed up."

However, some truck drivers feel the changes would only make it worse.

"It's going to make more traffic," said Neil Messerley, a truck driver for V&M Trucking in Harrisonburg. "It's going to make it worse. You're going to have them in both lanes racing again, one, yeah, running two miles per hour faster than the other."

He said because some trucks are required to drive under the speed limit with their speed governed and others that are required to run the speed limit, it would cause more problems to have both types of trucks in the same lane. He explained that it would also cause even more trucks to enter the left lane to pass when they get to zones where trucks are once again allowed to pass.

WHSV reached out to Sen. Obenshain for comment earlier this week, but received no response.

A number of projects are in the works for the section of I-81 through the Valley over the coming years, including truck climbing lanes in the Weyers Cave area and replacing the Route 33 bridges in Harrisonburg. You can learn more about the current situation on the interstate in WHSV's special report,