Status Report: I-81 Studies
VDOT initiated the I-81 studies to determine the best roadway-widening and improvement options needed to ease traffic flow along the Virginia section of I-81. Seven consulting firms are conducting 10 separate studies. Each study includes land surveys, environmental and historical studies, and traffic analyses.
Two citizen information meetings will be held in each study area to discuss improvement options. Meeting time frames listed are estimates. To find out more specific meeting information:
Studies and projects from Bristol to Roanoke, map and descriptions
Studies and projects from Roanoke to Winchester, map and descriptions
I-81 - #9 Shenandoah County Second Meeting:
September 10, 1998 from 4 - 7 p.m.
I-81 improvements estimated timeline
1997 -- All 10 widening studies under way
1997-98 -- Two citizen information meetings held in each study area
mid-1998 -- Widening construction begins in Bristol area;
late 1998 -- All studies completed; best widening options selected
early 1999 -- Study results reviewed by Commonwealth Transportation Board;
1999-2020 -- Ongoing construction
New Era of Construction Begins
Two construction projects along Interstate 81 are under way in two urban areas: Bristol and Christiansburg. Although these two construction projects were not part of the current I-81 widening studies, they demonstrate the need to upgrade the interstate to accommodate growth and increasing traffic.
In the Bristol area, I-81 is being widened from four to six lanes between Exit 74 in Tennessee to just north of Exit 7 in Virginia. As part of the $69 million construction project, the Gate City Highway interchange at Exit 1 will be reconstructed, and the Route 11 (Lee Highway) interchange at Exit 5 will be modified.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held April 8 in Bristol to commemorate the new era of construction on I-81. Local officials and members of Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board planted a dogwood, the state tree, at Virginia's Welcome Center near the Virginia-Tennessee border to signify the start of the first major construction projects on the more than 30-year-old interstate.
In the Christiansburg area, work began in March on a $62.5 million project to build a new I-81 interchange at Falling Branch. The interchange will extend the Route 460 Christiansburg Bypass to I-81 and open land just east of the interstate to economic development. Montgomery County plans a new industrial park in this area. The project also includes widening I-81 to six lanes near Exit 118 and adding collector-distributor lanes parallel to the interstate for smoother traffic flow.
Both projects are expected to be completed in fall 2000.
Sources: Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Tech Center for Transportation Research
Study Reveals Truck Driver Concerns
Because of the increasing volume of large truck traffic on I-81, VDOT conducted a study to identify truck drivers' concerns. More than 1,300 drivers were interviewed at commercial truck stops and rest areas along I-81 throughout Virginia. Here are some of the study's findings:
Of the 20,000 to 50,000 vehicles per day that travel I-81, somewhere between 19% and 40% are trucks, depending on the segment. The 30-year-old I-81 was designed to accommodate only 15% truck traffic. Truck traffic is expected to continue growing as businesses increase their reliance upon trucks to transport goods.
The majority of truck traffic enters and leaves I-81 at I-40 in Tennessee and at I-77 in Fort Chiswell. Household goods, general freight, food and construction materials are among the most frequent types of cargo transported by trucks on I-81.
Truck drivers indicated that the top four most difficult interchanges to navigate are Exit 150 at Route 220 in Troutville, Exit 72 at I-77 North in Wytheville, Exit 80 at I-77 South in Fort Chiswell, and Exit 243 at Route 11 in Harrisonburg. These four interchanges have tight curves.
Seventy-four percent of truck drivers interviewed in the study felt additional parking is needed along I-81. Most notably, additional parking was most requested at Exit 150 (Troutville) and Exit 205 (Raphine). The majority of truck drivers felt that additional rest areas were most needed between Roanoke and Staunton.
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