The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Study says I-81 not congested

Contrary to popular belief, a new VDOT study, covered here by the Roanoke Times, says that I-81 is not as crowded as most people think. The study says that the average speed of traffic on this route is 69 miles per hour. The interstate also graded pretty well in terms of safety, with a crash-score rating of 160 points, compared to an average of 277 for all of Virginia's interstates.

The study says that, while there are problem areas around major cities, the interstate as a whole is in good shape for the near future. These results seem to complement the arguments of those who oppose improvements to the entirety of I-81 in Virginia. These critics would seek cheaper and less extensive improvements to trouble areas, coupled with alternatives such as transferring truck traffic to nearby rail lines. These critics include State Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) who has introduced a bill that would halt VDOT's plan for a wholesale overhaul of the I-81 corridor. The Roanoke Times has more on Hanger's bill here.

While I agree that the widening of I-81 shouldn't be the only fix, Hanger's solution seems too short-sighted. A 50-year solution to I-81's problems will likely be much cheaper and less troublesome than a series of 10- to 15-year solutions. While I also understand people's aversion to tolls, they make a heck of a lot more sense than the blanket tax increase that Hanger voted for last year, as they actually tax people for their usage of the road.

UPDATE: Looks like Hanger's efforts have been derailed (sorry, couldn't help it) in committee. The Roanoke Times has more.

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