We always pay attention when there is talk of federal transportation dollars. For Interstate 81, federal investment can help accelerate needed improvements. On the other hand, a big slug of money without planning can lead to harmful over widening.
In April we teamed up with Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and sent a letter to the Valley’s federal delegation, urging a targeted and data-driven approach to any I-81 investment. In particular, we urged them to consider funding improvements that have been already been vetted through the state’s I-81 Corridor Plan.
“At the federal level, we do not know whether improvements to Interstate 81 might be included in an infrastructure package. If so, we strongly encourage solutions that are effective and bring fewer negative impacts on communities, health, and natural and cultural resources. These solutions include operational improvements, increased transit options, public investments that move freight by rail instead of truck, improvements to local road networks, and bicycle and pedestrian networks in communities within the corridor. Finally, as described above, we encourage any funding for capital improvements to be directed toward projects identified in Virginia’s I-81 Corridor Plan.
We also note that it is critical to prevent further weakening of environmental review of transportation projects in any federal legislation. The opportunity for the public to understand proposed projects and work with transportation officials to mitigate negative impacts consistently results in projects that are a better fit with the Shenandoah Valley’s extraordinary natural resources, historic and cultural resources, and our local communities.”