State legislators ask Congress to improve Interstate 81

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Print this page By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

More than a dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly urged their counterparts in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to fund improvements in safety and congestion on Interstate 81, which runs from Tennessee to the Canadian border.

The state lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as well as to U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Barbara Comstock, whose congressional districts include I-81.

The letter was signed by three state senators (Charles Carrico, Creigh Deeds and Mark Obenshain) and 14 state delegates, all from the western part of the state. Fifteen of the legislators are Republicans, and two are Democrats. They asked Congress to support several bills to improve I-81.

“I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for common sense solutions for our pressing safety problems on I-81,” Obenshain, a Republican from Harrisonburg, said in a press release. “We are coming together as a bipartisan group of Senators and Delegates urging our congressional delegation to fight for funding for I-81.”

Obenshain has two bills on this issue before the General Assembly:

·       Senate Bill 561 would direct the Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot program to establish zones on I-81 where tractor trucks would be required to travel in the right lane. SB 561 has been referred to the Committee on Transportation.

·       SB 971 would direct the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop an I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan that may include tolling heavy commercial vehicles to finance the improvements. SB 971 has been referred to the Committee on Rules.

Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, who also signed the letter, has proposed creating a joint subcommittee to study the possibility of adding lanes to I-81 between Wytheville and Bristol.

“There are real safety problems that need real solutions,” Obenshain said, “and I am confident that these legislative proposals will present these solutions.”

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