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Author Topic: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan  (Read 83206 times)

Jmiles32

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #375 on: October 10, 2021, 10:18:10 PM »

Thanks to some recent travels up and down I-81 to/from Northern Virginia I've noticed that there are two problematic locations that probably should have been addressed/funded in the I-81 corridor improvement plan but were not. Both are in the northbound direction and result in delays frequently but especially on weekends. The first is near Lexington approaching the I-64 interchange (Exit 191). Here the traffic backups can and often do extend all the way to the US-60 interchange (Exit 188) and sometimes even further south. IMO I find this rather odd because while the I-64 interchange does result in a left lane on ramp merge, the traffic coming from I-64 is very light and seemingly wouldn't be enough to result in a miles long backup on I-81. Nevertheless that merge is clearly the culprit here.

The second is northbound approaching I-66 (Exit 300) near Strasburg. Here traffic usually starts backing up right before the US-48/VA-55 interchange (Exit 296) but can easily start further south as well. Now this one to me makes no sense and if someone here has a good guess as to the culprit please feel free to share. I don't think it has anything to do with the I-66 on ramp merge because traffic usually clears up right before the I-66 off ramp. I don't think it has anything to do with eastbound US-48 traffic either because traffic on that road is not that significant enough yet. Interesting too IMO that I-81 southbound between Exit 296 and Exit 300 is planned to be widened to 3 GP lanes but not northbound as right now I think the northbound backups on this stretch are far more frequent and arguably worse. Any thoughts?
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Rothman

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #376 on: October 10, 2021, 11:58:32 PM »

Maybe congestion locations, but I don't know about full-blown backups there happening frequently.
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Jmiles32

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #377 on: October 11, 2021, 12:22:26 AM »

I'd argue that based on experiences and google maps traffic view, back ups on northbound I-81 in both these of these locations is almost a given during the weekend afternoon/evening. Very similar situation to the notorious weekend northbound I-95 back up in Fredericksburg which IMO similarly did not make logical sense unlike southbound. Thankfully, even though it was usually only on weekends, that back up was bad enough to be addressed by funding the northbound rappahannock river crossing project. I suspect that fixing these northbound I-81 ones would not be nearly as expensive. Maybe just acceleration and deacceleration lane extensions as opposed to full on widening.
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froggie

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #378 on: October 11, 2021, 01:14:04 AM »

81 northbound past Strasburg and up to 66 is on an uphill.  While the grade isn't steep, based on my own experience I would not be surprised if that uphill grade is a contributing factor.
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sprjus4

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #379 on: October 11, 2021, 02:11:33 AM »

I’m not sure what it was, but I-81 North was busy between Roanoke and Staunton last Sunday. The volume of cars and trucks was heavy, and traffic was mostly moving 45-60 mph the whole way, very rarely reaching the 70 mph speed limit. The only “relief”  was on the 6 lane segment north of Lexington where it opened up and everyone was filling all 3 lanes at 80+ mph, then right back down to 45-50 mph condensing to 2 lanes.

It really speaks for the need of a 6 lane statewide corridor. These spot improvements are a good start, I suppose, but VDOT really needs to be long term planning for full widening throughout.

Another “safety”  project needs to be realigning the many 60 mph curves that often slows traffic, particularly when trucks are present in both lanes. Straighten them out and realign the highway where necessary to be able to maintain a minimum 70 mph design speed.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 02:14:29 AM by sprjus4 »
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VTGoose

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #380 on: October 11, 2021, 10:42:54 AM »

I’m not sure what it was, but I-81 North was busy between Roanoke and Staunton last Sunday. The volume of cars and trucks was heavy, and traffic was mostly moving 45-60 mph the whole way, very rarely reaching the 70 mph speed limit. The only “relief”  was on the 6 lane segment north of Lexington where it opened up and everyone was filling all 3 lanes at 80+ mph, then right back down to 45-50 mph condensing to 2 lanes.

Sunday is typically a busier day on I-81 with trucks rolling from the south to the Northeast. Add in a home football game for Virginia Tech and you have Hokies heading home (although last weekend way a bye week).

Yesterday was a good example of the need for a third lane in each direction. My wife and I headed out Sunday just before noon for a "quick" trip to Roanoke. Just after getting on at exit 118, we were in a traffic slowdown. The message boards approaching 81 showed "Accident at MM 127 -- Right shoulder blocked" -- which didn't fit with the traffic backup. When we finally approached the accident, there were three vehicles sitting off the road on the LEFT but no other signs of a wreck. Traffic continued in clog mode on past the Ironto exit and further north. I jumped off at the first Salem exit (137) when I saw both lanes ahead jammed. On the way back to Blacksburg later in the afternoon, I bypassed Salem from I-581 to exit 137 to take the "back way" on U.S 11/460 to Christiansburg. At the connection to the Dixie Caverns exit, there was a long line of traffic waiting to turn left from 11 east. The heavy eastbound traffic continued all the way until we reached I-81 (and beyond) with traffic on the 81 overpass at a standstill. Another northbound wreck blocked both lanes; see https://facebook.com/MontgomeryCountyemergencyServices for photos of the tractor-trailer wreck that caused all the havoc.

On another note, the original plans for the improvements between I-581 and exit 141/VA 419 weren't quite accurate. The plans showed the southbound right lane becoming the exit ramp for exit 141 and the left entrance ramp from I-581 continuing as the left lane, which required through traffic to shift. In reality, the ramp from I-581 continues almost to exit 141 and there is no through lane shift since the existing exit ramp for VA 419 was lengthened. The whole of the 581 ramp isn't open yet, but there is a longer space to merge than before the work started. Since we bailed early, I don't know the status of the northbound lanes, but when done it will be a major improvement to separate traffic exiting to 581 from faster through traffic.

Bruce in Blacksburg
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odditude

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #381 on: October 11, 2021, 04:22:20 PM »

I’m not sure what it was, but I-81 North was busy between Roanoke and Staunton last Sunday. The volume of cars and trucks was heavy, and traffic was mostly moving 45-60 mph the whole way, very rarely reaching the 70 mph speed limit. The only “relief”  was on the 6 lane segment north of Lexington where it opened up and everyone was filling all 3 lanes at 80+ mph, then right back down to 45-50 mph condensing to 2 lanes.

Sunday is typically a busier day on I-81 with trucks rolling from the south to the Northeast. Add in a home football game for Virginia Tech and you have Hokies heading home (although last weekend way a bye week).


i believe this past weekend was homecoming for JMU (in Harrisonburg), as well.
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sprjus4

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #382 on: December 06, 2021, 01:21:54 AM »

MM 141-143 widening is now complete. MM 137-141 is currently under construction.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTSalem/status/1466517423847321604
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Tom958

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #383 on: December 06, 2021, 05:10:42 AM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split. It's OK per the MUTCD to do that temporarily in order to delay replacing an otherwise-adequate overhead installation (or, I presume, where a bridge would obstruct the view of a correctly-sited APL), but this is a new installation with no obstructions. Here's the previous condition.
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1995hoo

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #384 on: December 06, 2021, 07:44:27 AM »

I wonder how they decide whether they’ll put the direction ("north," in that case) before or after the shield.
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Dirt Roads

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #385 on: December 06, 2021, 09:06:43 AM »

I wonder how they decide whether they’ll put the direction ("north," in that case) before or after the shield.

I might be wrong, but I was under the impression that VDOT uses the same rule for cardinal directions on overhead BGS as is used for left/right placement of exit tabs.
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1995hoo

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #386 on: December 06, 2021, 09:24:43 AM »

I wonder how they decide whether they’ll put the direction ("north," in that case) before or after the shield.

I might be wrong, but I was under the impression that VDOT uses the same rule for cardinal directions on overhead BGS as is used for left/right placement of exit tabs.

I don't think that's always the case; if it were, "North" on this sign on I-95 near Woodbridge would be on the left.
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hbelkins

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #387 on: December 06, 2021, 09:31:25 AM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split.

Good.
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Dirt Roads

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #388 on: December 06, 2021, 10:57:01 AM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split.

Is the prohibition on APL signage for "Exit Only" lanes still in effect?  There was quite a bit of discussion of this topic back some 5 years ago, but I haven't paying attention.
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wriddle082

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #389 on: December 06, 2021, 11:01:39 AM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split.

Good.

Indeed, conventional signage should be used right at the split, and APLs on all advance signage leading up to the split, in order to differentiate the split.  Of the states that used to use (and sometimes still do use) diagrammatics, they never used them right at the split.  Using an APL right at the split is akin to this.
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ran4sh

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #390 on: December 06, 2021, 06:01:18 PM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split.

Is the prohibition on APL signage for "Exit Only" lanes still in effect?  There was quite a bit of discussion of this topic back some 5 years ago, but I haven't paying attention.

Yes. There are still a lot of prohibited uses of APLs which some states have ignored.
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VTGoose

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #391 on: December 07, 2021, 08:57:39 AM »

MM 141-143 widening is now complete. MM 137-141 is currently under construction.

The good news is that the diagrams released when the project was started were wrong. They showed the southbound through lanes shifting left a lane with the far lane becoming the extended exit lane for the VA 419 exit. The reality is that the existing exit lane was extended and the on-ramp lane from I-581 was extended on the other side of the through lanes, with a second entrance lane added in the median. On the northbound side, the extended and expanded exit lanes should help clear up a bottleneck in the section of the interstate. There is now an earlier separation of through traffic and exiting traffic.

The whole project still doesn't make sense when there was a better solution on the southbound side, as has been discussed and proposed here multiple times -- build two new southbound lanes parallel to the northbound lanes, crossing the I581 ramps on an overpass. The existing southbound lanes would become a C/D lane and southbound traffic to and from I-581 would exit/enter on the right.

Bruce in Blacksburg
 
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Dirt Roads

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #392 on: December 07, 2021, 09:57:41 AM »

They used conventional signage instead of an APL at the split.

Is the prohibition on APL signage for "Exit Only" lanes still in effect?  There was quite a bit of discussion of this topic back some 5 years ago, but I haven't paying attention.

Yes. There are still a lot of prohibited uses of APLs which some states have ignored.

As someone who used to referee similar issues, I believe that there is also a debate whether this situation is a lane drop requiring an "Exit Only" tab, or a highway split requiring APL signage.  I can see both sides of this argument and am not sure that consistency matters (as long as the signage doesn't lead to confusion).  In many states, the only rule that really matters is "least expensive".
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ran4sh

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #393 on: December 07, 2021, 06:47:44 PM »

Highway split isn't a sufficient condition by itself to require APLs, there must also be an option lane. Splits without option lanes, according to the MUTCD, should still be using conventional down-arrow signage.

As for "least expensive", an APL would almost never be that.
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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #394 on: December 08, 2021, 08:57:23 AM »

As for "least expensive", an APL would almost never be that.

My point, exactly.
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Jmiles32

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #395 on: July 19, 2022, 03:49:57 PM »

Not only is Frederick County looking to extend the current planned I-81 widening, but they are also looking more fervently at finding funding to at least start a piece the eastern extension of VA-37 (which would not only help relieve I-81 but also VA-7 and to a lesser extent US-50 and US-522):
https://www.winchesterstar.com/winchester_star/crucial-need-for-va-37-extension-discussed-with-federal-state-officials/article_8fe126d3-0a77-50b6-8f8c-09849106ae1e.html#comments
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Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved studies to evaluate where the most critical sections of the Va. 37 extensions are needed and determine the feasibility of funding and building the roadway in segments.

Bishop said the study should take six months to a year to complete.

Bishop also noted that the supervisors recently set aside $8.7 million to address transportation needs and approved spending up to $11 million to make the county's Smart Scale applications more competitive. In recent years, the county has struggled to obtain funding for major road projects through Smart Scale – Virginia's data-driven prioritization method to fund road improvements.

County officials have said the county would likely have more success in securing Smart Scale funding if it has money set aside for road projects.

Dunn called for Smart Scale reforms, saying the process puts less urban localities such as Frederick County at a disadvantage and doesn't address projected needs. Commonwealth Transportation Board member Mark Merrill said Smart Scale is expected to be revised sometime next year.

Merrill said he thinks the county is moving in the right direction by examining building the Va. 37 in segments, noting that an $811 million project is "a tough sell."

Dunn asked about the possibility of obtaining federal grants for the project.

Zack Golden, state director for Sen. Warner, said a key criteria in a grant application is how a project would alleviate supply chain constraints. He suggested noting in the application how a Va. 37 extension would benefit the Virginia Inland Port.
Quote
Also at the meeting, the five supervisors present – Dunn, Wells, Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Judith McCann-Slaughter and Josh Ludwig – unanimously voted in support of a resolution for additional improvements to I-81 in the county. The resolution, which will be sent to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, calls for widening I-81 in both directions between exits 317 and 323, as well as between exits 307 and 313, should funding become available.

Glad to see that Frederick County is looking at sources other than smart scale now to help fund VA-37. IMO the Winchester area definitely got the short end of the stick when it came to the I-81 improvement plan and going forward, addressing that quickly growing area should be a priority.
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sprjus4

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #397 on: December 13, 2022, 03:11:20 PM »

^ Still little to nothing toward a six lane corridor… just spot improvements. They need to prioritize widening, at the minimum, between Roanoke and Christiansburg. Most of it is planned to be addressed, but still missing in some areas.

Then, obviously, no widening planned north of Roanoke or south of Christiansburg any time in the next couple decades, meanwhile trucks continue to overwhelm that corridor.
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VTGoose

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Re: VA I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
« Reply #398 on: December 14, 2022, 10:44:55 AM »

^ Still little to nothing toward a six lane corridor… just spot improvements. They need to prioritize widening, at the minimum, between Roanoke and Christiansburg. Most of it is planned to be addressed, but still missing in some areas.

Then, obviously, no widening planned north of Roanoke or south of Christiansburg any time in the next couple decades, meanwhile trucks continue to overwhelm that corridor.

What doesn't make any sense is the various projects that were started before the Corridor Improvement project was set up. There has been a known need for I-81 to be widened, yet that wasn't accounted for in the replacement of the bridges over the New River at Radford, the reconstruction of Exit 114 at Christiansburg, and several other "improvements" that were built. About the only place that this was done was years ago when the bridges were replaced just south of exit 141 in Salem -- they were built for three lanes in both directions, which finally plays into the current widening project.
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ARMOURERERIC

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Re: Virginia
« Reply #399 on: January 26, 2023, 02:17:28 AM »

Maybe old news....just showed up in my news feed:  VDoT will put out to bid in the fall widening I-81 to 6 lanes Exits 7-10
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