The Commonwealth Transportation Board has ruled out trucks-only lanes as a method of relieving congestion on Interstate 81, the News Virginian reported Sunday, Jan. 6. The trucks-only proposal came from STAR Solutions, a team of Virginia construction and engineering firms that offered a $13 billion project to add two lanes in either direction on I-81, including separate ones for trucks.
“We don’t know what we will be building,” Fred Altizer, VDOT’s I-81 program manager, told the News Virginian. “There are no firm plans to build one or two lanes.” According to VDOT, I-81 traffic has tripled in the past 20 years, and the percentage of truck traffic has increased dramatically, sometimes to 40 percent of the interstate traffic.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, told the newspaper that at least one lane must be added long-term on the full length of I-81 in Virginia. “Short-term, we need to create a cash flow of $100 million to $200 million to widen bridges, overpasses and put an additional third lane in critical locations,” Hanger told the News Virginian.
The possibility of vehicle tolls to fund improvements is still on the table, although Hanger told the newspaper he favors adding to the state gas tax instead. VDOT Spokeswoman Laura Southard told the News Virginian the agency is working on entrance and exit ramp extensions along I-81, and hopes to complete truck climbing lanes in the next couple of years in Montgomery and Rockbridge counties.