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State Officials Plan I-81 Improvements, Possible Tolls

22 October 2018 Winchester Frederick County News

The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation are in the midst of a study of I-81 that could result in improvements to the interstate and tolls to pay for them.

State officials were directed to conduct the study by Virginia’s General Assembly, the goal of which is to identify improvements that will reduce traffic backups and safety hazards while also finding funding for these projects. During a public meeting last week at Shenandoah University’s Brandt Student Center, officials revealed plans to spend a total of $2 billion on 72 improvements along the length of I-81. These changes would include adding a third lane to stretches of the interstate, extending ramps, installing incident-detecting cameras, and adding changeable message signs to alert drivers. A total of $886 million would be spent on VDOT’s Staunton district, which includes the Winchester region.

To pay for these improvements, the proposal suggests tolling trucks on I-81 somewhere under 17 cents per mile, and other vehicles one to two-thirds of that amount. Officials are also proposing a 0.7% increase in retail sales and use taxes and a 2.1% increase in the regional fuels tax.

The group behind this I-81 study will make its recommendation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board next week during an October 30th meeting, which the CTB will then consider at its December 5th meeting. A formal plan will be submitted to Virginia’s General Assembly by the first day of its 2019 session.

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