Highway Safety Corridor
In January 2004, a 15-mile section of I-81 between Salem and Ironto was the first section of interstate in Virginia to be designated as a Highway Safety Corridor. If drivers are cited by law enforcement officers for traffic violations or criminal infractions in that area, they could receive tickets with increased fines up to $2,500, depending on the citation. The zone begins at mile marker 127 near Ironto in Montgomery County and extends to mile marker 142 near Salem. More than 20 12-foot wide bright yellow signs are posted throughout the zone.
The purpose of the program is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities. The increased fines are part of a Highway Safety Corridor Program created by the 2003 General Assembly to improve safety on designated stretches of Virginia’s interstate system. For more information on the program, click here.
Extension of acceleration/deceleration lanes
Longer acceleration and deceleration lanes have been added to all of the interchanges in Pulaski, Montgomery, Roanoke and Botetourt counties, providing drivers with more room to merge on and off I-81.
During the past three years, rumble strips have been added along the shoulders of I-81 throughout the state. In many places, rumble strips also were installed on inside shoulders. These rumble strips give drivers a jaw-jarring warning that they are veering out of the travel lanes. Nationwide, rumble strips are credited with preventing up to 70% of run-off-the-road crashes. VDOT has been recognized nationally for the design and effectiveness of the rumble strips used on our interstates.
Changeable Message Signs
Overhead message signs have been installed to communicate real-time traffic information to motorists all along the corridor.
To assist in pinpointing the location of incidents that might slow traffic, 29 cameras were installed along I-81 from Exit 323 (just south of the West Virginia line) to mile marker 179 at Natural Bridge. The cameras are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Staunton District Smart Traffic Center. The images are be available to the public via Trafficland.
During the past five years, new and better guardrail has been installed in various locations along I-81. Called strong post guardrail, it has been tested for crash resistance with today’s vehicles – SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks. Crash energy absorption is improved with this new guardrail, and the larger end sections are more crash resistant.
In some locations in Pulaski and Botetourt counties where the median is narrow, double-sided guardrail has been installed along the left shoulder to help decrease the number of crossover crashes. Sections of I-81 in Roanoke County also will receive this type of median barrier guardrail.
Speed Limit Reduction
In 2000, speed limits in the metro areas surrounding Harrisonburg and Roanoke were lowered from 65 mph to 60 mph. In the Roanoke area, 14.7 miles of I-81 are affected. In the Harrisonburg area, more than six miles are affected.
Rock Fence Placement
On a mountainous section of I-81 between Christiansburg and Ironto, VDOT installed fencing to catch rocks that break loose from Christiansburg Mountain.
Highway Noise Walls
In 1989, VDOT established a policy to lessen the impact of highway traffic noise on people in neighborhoods and in other noise-sensitive areas. The recently widened section of I-81 near Bristol and the new Exit 118 interchange in Montgomery County near Christiansburg feature noise walls. Click here for an explanation on how VDOT carries out its noise reduction program.