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Warner talks I-81, Trump trade policy during Harrisonburg visit

Senator Warner listens as JMU president Jonathan Alger introduces him.
Senator Warner listens as JMU president Jonathan Alger introduces him.(WHSV)
Published: Nov. 17, 2018 at 5:44 PM EST
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Senator Mark Warner met with leaders from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County on Saturday afternoon to discuss several topics —

including congestion issues along Interstate 81 and the impact of President Donald Trump's trade policy on valley farmers.

The Democrat voiced concern over the trade dispute with China sparked by tariffs from the Trump administration. While he agreed trade relations between the two powers should be addressed, he said he would rather see an international coalition to challenge Beijing's trade practices.

Sen. Warner reasoned there are usually not winners in trade wars.

"I feel at times Mr. Trump believes trade wars are good things," Warner said. "I feel for Virginia agriculture in particular, when we cut off our export markets, that is not in the interest of Virginia farmers."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture began a billion-dollar

for growers experiencing financial strain due to trade disputes.

"China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me," President Trump tweeted in September.

Economists say the trade war with China has so far had only a limited impact, according to a November report by the Associated Press.

During his visit on Saturday, Warner also touched on what he feels is a need for a permanent solution to traffic congestion along Interstate 81.

"We need a major infrastructure investment," Senator Warner said. "We're going to have to find ways for either Washington to find additional funding or look at additional public/private initiatives."

Transportation officials

their preliminary recommendations for improvements to Interstate 81 in October. Earlier this year, the General Assembly instructed several state agencies — including the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) — to study the entire length of the interstate in Virginia and identify potential fixes and sources of funding.

Among the recommendations to pay for $3.3 billion in fixes to Interstate 81 were tolls for heavy commercial vehicles and taxes on retail sales.