I-81

Cars park on the shoulder of Interstate 81 in Abingdon after a gap in the bridge at Exit 13 opened and damaged tires on several cars on July 18.

While state transportation officials are digging into possible fixes for Interstate 95, a new committee soon will meet to do the same for Interstate 81.

Both interstates are heavily congested — and highly dangerous for motorists.

Both are major thoroughfares for commerce, especially tractor-trailer traffic. In fact, I-81 is one of the most heavily traveled interstates in the nation when it comes to truck traffic.

The governor and the General Assembly this year reached agreement on a program to raise money for I-81 improvements. That agreement included plans to charge higher fees for tractor-trailer registrations and higher fuel taxes along the I-81 corridor.

The entire package should generate about $280 million annually — but I-81 will get only about $150 million of that money. The rest will be shared with other regions — including I-95 — to help meet their transportation needs.

The broader distribution of money doubtless was necessary to get a majority of lawmakers to approve the package.

Transportation officials already have finished their first phase of study for I-95, and have identified more projects than they will have money to solve.

A special Interstate 81 Committee established by the recent legislation will hold its first meeting on Tuesday to start looking at I-81 projects — but needs already identified by the Virginia Department of Transportation also exceed the money expected to be available.

That’s discouraging, of course, but at least there is progress on both fronts. Transportation officials might not be able to do everything needed — but they can do something.

— Adapted from The Daily Progress, Charlottesville

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