Since 2002, the Alliance legacy organizations have advocated for targeted, affordable, low-impact solutions for Interstate 81 to address the safety and congestion concerns at points along the corridor from Roanoke to Winchester.
In 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved a plan to widen Interstate 81 to eight or more lanes to the tune of over $11 billion dollars to be paid for by tolls. The plan was broadly opposed by conservation groups and the public due to its enormous price tag and impacts to local business, homeowners, historic battlefields and natural resources.
And because the improvement plan for I-81 was so costly and damaging, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has not implemented solutions for much of the corridor.
Unfortunately, where projects have been completed they’ve been built to the excessive specifications outlined in the ill-conceived plan and have carried very large price tags – money that would be better spent on targeted, less expensive solutions.
In 2007 the Shenandoah Valley Network released a six-point plan addressing the real needs on I-81 while respecting the communities in the corridor. Dozens of local governments and community groups endorsed the “Reasonable Solutions for the Future of I-81.” A look at today’s I-81 issues and concern reveal these solutions are still the best fit.
In 2018, in response to an I-81 Corridor Study performed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Alliance produced Safer Solutions Sooner, a set of policy suggestions identifying improvements that don’t involve any environmental permits, no right-of-way purchases and no waiting on construction bids and are sensitive to the valuable resources that border the interstate throughout the Valley – scenic and historic landscapes, working agricultural lands and small towns.