VDOT to hold public feedback sessions on how to improve Interstate 81

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Local lawmakers and the Virginia Department of Transportation say they're making progress on finding solutions to Interstate 81, but they want your help to move forward.

Landes said he hoped to get feedback that would help VDOT and the General Assembly.

VDOT is holding public feedback sessions to assist its team members as they study the interstate themselves. The study hopes to gather public input on safety and congestion concerns along the entire Interstate 81 corridor through Virginia.

This is a result of a bill passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, proposed by local Sen. Mark Obenshain.

Along with studying safety and congestion, VDOT and lawmakers are also studying potential revenue sources, including truck-only tolls, to help raise money to fix I-81.

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

But the idea of tolls on heavy commercial vehicles has not sat well with many local trucking companies, who worry such tolls could impact them disproportionately.

"There are challenges with that, especially local trucking companies, and we have a lot of them," Landes said. "What they were looking at is some way to provide relief to the local, maybe in-state companies, versus the out-of-state companies."

The problem is so bad, Landes said he had heard some interesting feedback.

"I've heard from some folks that obviously use trucking. And use them for their products and goods and services and even have their own trucks," Landes said. "And some of those folks are still in favor of doing something. And possibly supporting that toll."

The bill was passed unanimously in the Virginia Senate and on a 85-3 vote in the House before being signed by Gov. Ralph Northam on April 4.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has reported a 12% increase in traffic on I-81 around Harrisonburg in the past five years, and delays have increased by 55%. But community and industry feedback will play a large part in VDOT's next decisions.

There are two feedback sessions in the Valley. The first is Tuesday, June 12 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Strasburg High School.

The second is Wednesday, June 13 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Blue Ridge Community College's Pleckler Center.

The other meetings will be on June 6 from 4-7 p.m. at the Southwest Higher Education Center in Abingdon and on June 14 at the Holiday Inn Valley View in Roanoke.