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Author Topic: I-81 in Virginia  (Read 3452 times)

cpzilliacus

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I-81 in Virginia
« on: July 26, 2018, 03:41:20 PM »

WTOP Radio: Tolls, drones among key proposals for I-81 traffic fixes

Quote
Drones floating above the interstate could be as integral as new tolling or gas taxes are to significant changes planned to deal with Interstate 81 backups that can leave drivers sitting at a standstill for hours.

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Unlike other interstates in Virginia, delays on the approximately 325 miles of I-81 are most often due to crashes or other incidents that block lanes. In other parts of the state, delays are usually more predictable due to congestion from rush-hour or other traffic.

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The difference is expected to lead to some unique possible solutions to the mileslong backups on I-81 that can last eight hours or longer following a serious crash with an overturned tractor-trailer. The General Assembly has directed Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board to report back with proposals by early January.
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2018, 08:57:56 PM »

List of current Virginia Department of Transportation projects in the I-81 Corridor can be found here.
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2018, 03:47:43 PM »

I wonder if anything will actually be done to the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia, or if the can will again be kicked down the road. Maybe they should have gone forward with the truck lanes proposal.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2018, 12:41:45 AM »

I wonder if anything will actually be done to the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia, or if the can will again be kicked down the road. Maybe they should have gone forward with the truck lanes proposal.

Fluor Virginia was a consortium at the same time that tendered a proposal for conventional widening of the whole 325 miles to at least 6 lanes (3 each way).  That and the STAR Solutions proposal were returned (IOW canceled) by the state.

They would have been supported by tolling the highway which was authorized as a TEA-21 pilot project.

Fluor Virginia Inc. said in 2003 that it could add two car-only lanes in the median of I-81 for $1.8 billion by 2011 and pay for it entirely with tolls on cars and trucks.


« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 12:51:34 AM by Beltway »
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ixnay

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2018, 09:03:46 AM »

Couldn't resist linking this...


ixnay
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2018, 07:17:01 PM »

^^^That was on time, ixnay!

I may have heard this as a wee lad...
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2018, 09:35:40 AM »

The 81 mentioned in the song...what the hell is it, anyway? Nonetheless, that was a cool reference indeed!
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DeaconG

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2018, 10:58:15 AM »

The 81 mentioned in the song...what the hell is it, anyway? Nonetheless, that was a cool reference indeed!

It's a dance style; back in the 50's through the early 80's they would name new dances (for example, the "Funky Chicken" or the "Mashed Potatoes").
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2018, 02:41:00 PM »

Couldn't resist linking this...


ixnay

Nice! Thanks for sharing this. 
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2018, 02:51:38 PM »

I wonder if anything will actually be done to the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia, or if the can will again be kicked down the road. Maybe they should have gone forward with the truck lanes proposal.

I see four possible paths to follow:

(1) Do nothing except maintenance (such as bridge repairs to include deck replacements) and paving, and maybe a few "spot" widenings - as allowed by existing funding sources.

(2) Impose tolls on all traffic using I-81 in Virginia, perhaps with cashless toll collection collection from gantries between interchanges in the style of MD-200 and NC-540.  This corridor might benefit from time-of-day tolling for cars and a separate time-of-day tolling schedule for commercial vehicles.

(3) Raise motor fuel taxes enough across all of Virginia to fund widening so the I-81 corridor is at least 6 or 8 lanes for all 320+ miles of freeway. 

(4) An alternative could make the fuel tax higher only in counties or cities through which I-81 runs (including jurisdictions that are close to, but not on I-81), but that would mean a steeper increase if it was only on I-81 corridor jurisdictions.
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1995hoo

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2018, 02:59:15 PM »

I seem to recall one of the sticking points on the Star and Fluor proposals being the companies’ desire for a noncompete clause that the AG’s office advised could have been construed to prohibit improvements to US-29 and possibly I-85. The US-29 one was of particular concern back then because of the improvements around Lynchburg (which were sorely needed, of course, and ideally would have extended further south). I don’t really remember other details at this point, but I seem to recall media reports about the overall issue being along those lines.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2018, 03:05:00 PM »

Quote from: cpzilliacus
(3) Raise motor fuel taxes enough across all of Virginia to fund widening so the I-81 corridor is at least 6 or 8 lanes for all 320+ miles of freeway.

(4) An alternative could make the fuel tax higher only in counties or cities through which I-81 runs (including jurisdictions that are close to, but not on I-81), but that would mean a steeper increase if it was only on I-81 corridor jurisdictions.

It depends on where the additional gas tax revenue would be targeted.  I doubt the former (a statewide increase) would be targeted just to I-81...not with the massive needs elsewhere in the state where the tax would be collected.  It would be less politically difficult to target the latter just to I-81...and I'd hazard a bet that such an increase would be less than what a statewide increase would need to be to get 81 on the docket.
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2018, 03:19:11 PM »

Quote from: cpzilliacus
(3) Raise motor fuel taxes enough across all of Virginia to fund widening so the I-81 corridor is at least 6 or 8 lanes for all 320+ miles of freeway.

(4) An alternative could make the fuel tax higher only in counties or cities through which I-81 runs (including jurisdictions that are close to, but not on I-81), but that would mean a steeper increase if it was only on I-81 corridor jurisdictions.

It depends on where the additional gas tax revenue would be targeted.  I doubt the former (a statewide increase) would be targeted just to I-81...not with the massive needs elsewhere in the state where the tax would be collected.  It would be less politically difficult to target the latter just to I-81...and I'd hazard a bet that such an increase would be less than what a statewide increase would need to be to get 81 on the docket.

I agree regarding a statewide increase - especially when some parts of the Commonwealth (in particular Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads) are already paying more from various sources.  Were a new motor fuel tax increase across Virginia be proposed, it would have to have a listing of projects that have (or are are deemed reasonably certain to get) environmental approvals.

If it were limited to just the  I-81 corridor counties and cities, I would presume that the increase would have to be larger, since you have an expensive project that would be spread over fewer units of fuel sold. Or am I missing something?
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Jmiles32

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2018, 05:16:37 PM »

I wonder if anything will actually be done to the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia, or if the can will again be kicked down the road. Maybe they should have gone forward with the truck lanes proposal.

I see four possible paths to follow:

(1) Do nothing except maintenance (such as bridge repairs to include deck replacements) and paving, and maybe a few "spot" widenings - as allowed by existing funding sources.

(2) Impose tolls on all traffic using I-81 in Virginia, perhaps with cashless toll collection collection from gantries between interchanges in the style of MD-200 and NC-540.  This corridor might benefit from time-of-day tolling for cars and a separate time-of-day tolling schedule for commercial vehicles.

(3) Raise motor fuel taxes enough across all of Virginia to fund widening so the I-81 corridor is at least 6 or 8 lanes for all 320+ miles of freeway. 

(4) An alternative could make the fuel tax higher only in counties or cities through which I-81 runs (including jurisdictions that are close to, but not on I-81), but that would mean a steeper increase if it was only on I-81 corridor jurisdictions.

I fear that since the words "Higher Taxes" are perhaps the most hated on the planet, Path 1 or 2 are probably the most realistic.
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Mapmikey

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2018, 08:34:02 PM »

Quote from: cpzilliacus
(3) Raise motor fuel taxes enough across all of Virginia to fund widening so the I-81 corridor is at least 6 or 8 lanes for all 320+ miles of freeway.

(4) An alternative could make the fuel tax higher only in counties or cities through which I-81 runs (including jurisdictions that are close to, but not on I-81), but that would mean a steeper increase if it was only on I-81 corridor jurisdictions.

It depends on where the additional gas tax revenue would be targeted.  I doubt the former (a statewide increase) would be targeted just to I-81...not with the massive needs elsewhere in the state where the tax would be collected.  It would be less politically difficult to target the latter just to I-81...and I'd hazard a bet that such an increase would be less than what a statewide increase would need to be to get 81 on the docket.

I agree regarding a statewide increase - especially when some parts of the Commonwealth (in particular Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads) are already paying more from various sources.  Were a new motor fuel tax increase across Virginia be proposed, it would have to have a listing of projects that have (or are are deemed reasonably certain to get) environmental approvals.

If it were limited to just the  I-81 corridor counties and cities, I would presume that the increase would have to be larger, since you have an expensive project that would be spread over fewer units of fuel sold. Or am I missing something?

i believe the theory is that a smaller regional fuel tax that was solely for I-81 would be more revenue than a larger statewide tax that would be divided among many projects...
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Stephane Dumas

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2018, 07:15:11 PM »

For the tolls, I guess besides the older idea of toll truck lanes, maybe some gaps of I-81 could have some ETL(Express toll lanes) or HOT (High Occupency toll) lanes similar to the concepts used for I-495/Capital Beltway around Arlington and I-95 in Maryland.

I digged the archives of misc.transport.road and I founded that old post from 2004 about tolls on I-81.
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/misc.transport.road/XvlxtWmxBm4%5B1-25%5D
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2018, 08:26:43 PM »

For the tolls, I guess besides the older idea of toll truck lanes, maybe some gaps of I-81 could have some ETL(Express toll lanes) or HOT (High Occupency toll) lanes similar to the concepts used for I-495/Capital Beltway around Arlington and I-95 in Maryland.

I digged the archives of misc.transport.road and I founded that old post from 2004 about tolls on I-81.
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/misc.transport.road/XvlxtWmxBm4%5B1-25%5D

I think the idea of truck-only toll lanes (and trucks prohibited on car lanes) is dead and is not coming back. 

HOV/Toll lanes probably do not make sense here, because there are no large employment centers, little or no transit or other bus service (IIRC Megabus has one or two trips each day between Knoxville, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. with a stop in Christiansburg (a "suburb" of Blacksburg), and the Virginia Breeze bus service is run by a sister company of Megabus between Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Front Royal, Dulles Airport, Arlington and Washington, D.C.) and those employment centers that do exist  are spread-out up and down the I-81 corridor in Virginia.

If there is a desire to go with tolling, then I think the tolls should apply to all traffic using  I-81, though if there are gantries between the  interchanges (like MD-200), then perhaps the  first 10 to 20 miles could be free of toll for drivers of cars with E-ZPass transponders.  Note that I strongly suspect that elected officials in the corridor would not like this idea at all, though they might like it better if it was presented as this or do nothing.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 08:34:06 PM by cpzilliacus »
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2018, 08:38:27 PM »

I think the idea of truck-only toll lanes (and trucks prohibited on car lanes) is dead and is not coming back. 
HOV/Toll lanes probably do not make sense here, because there are no large employment centers, and those that do exist  are spread-out up and down  the I-81 corridor in Virginia.
If there is a desire to go with tolling, then I think the tolls should apply to all traffic using  I-81, though if there are gantries between the  interchanges (like MD-200), then perhaps the  first 10 to 20 miles could be free of toll for drivers of cars with E-ZPass transponders.  Note that I strongly suspect that elected officials in the corridor would not like this idea at all, though they might like it better if it was presented as this or do nothing.

The Tier I EIS / location study of 2004 did not support the separate truck lanes, for 2035 projections, a two-lane truck roadway each way would rarely if ever be warranted trafficwise, and a two-lane car roadway each way would not be adequate at high-volume times in the week.  It didn't fit the current or future traffic patterns.

Better IMHO to have two conventional roadways, with three lanes each way for all traffic, with four lanes each way in certain high-volume sections.

As I have said before, the tolling of a long-distance toll-free Interstate doesn't seem to be feasible anywhere in the U.S., as none of the three TEA-21 pilot projects authorized in 1998 has been begun.  MO I-70 was one that was approved by FHWA, and VA I-81 was approved and after that failed it was switched to VA I-95, and that one also went nowhere.  I don't think the third one was ever taken.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2018, 09:23:21 PM »

^ It was taken.  North Carolina took the third slot for I-95 (and we all know how that turned out).

But it has all been reset.  Due to FAST Act changes, which gave a 3 year deadline from that time, the VA and NC slots were relinquished in late 2017 (I-70 MO still had interim approval at least through last year...do not know if that's still the case), and FHWA solicited requests over the winter.  I do not know who submitted requests or their status.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2018, 09:46:00 PM »

^ It was taken.  North Carolina took the third slot for I-95 (and we all know how that turned out).
But it has all been reset.  Due to FAST Act changes, which gave a 3 year deadline from that time, the VA and NC slots were relinquished in late 2017 (I-70 MO still had interim approval at least through last year...do not know if that's still the case), and FHWA solicited requests over the winter.  I do not know who submitted requests or their status.

If Virginia had been serious about it they would not have let it go.  Well, there was local opposition all along the corridor, and opposition from trucking industry lobbying groups, and opposition from motorist advocacy groups.

Fluor Virginia, Inc. had a proposal in 2003 to add one lane each way in the median for the whole of I-81, for $1.8 billion, to be completed by 2011, to be supported by tolls on all vehicle classes.  The $5.5 million per mile average might have been doable back then.  Imagine how nice it would be to have a 6-lane I-81 in Virginia now!
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2018, 10:58:12 PM »

The Tier I EIS / location study of 2004 did not support the separate truck lanes, for 2035 projections, a two-lane truck roadway each way would rarely if ever be warranted trafficwise, and a two-lane car roadway each way would not be adequate at high-volume times in the week.  It didn't fit the current or future traffic patterns.

Was that two lanes as in one lane each way for trucks or two lanes each way?  I always assumed it was two lanes each way, as truck traffic volumes on most of I-81 makes one lane each way an ugly proposition, given the great variability between laden and unladen truck weights.

Better IMHO to have two conventional roadways, with three lanes each way for all traffic, with four lanes each way in certain high-volume sections.

Yes, I agree. 

As I have said before, the tolling of a long-distance toll-free Interstate doesn't seem to be feasible anywhere in the U.S., as none of the three TEA-21 pilot projects authorized in 1998 has been begun.  MO I-70 was one that was approved by FHWA, and VA I-81 was approved and after that failed it was switched to VA I-95, and that one also went nowhere.  I don't think the third one was ever taken.

There are several Interstate corridors that could really use this, IMO (I have driven all of these):

  • I-81 (ideally all the way from Bristol to the I-78 junction in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania (and yes, there are some six-lane sections now));
  • I-78 between I-81 (near Lebanon) and end PennDOT maintenance and begin DRJTBC maintenance (signed TO PA-611 at Exit 75) [maybe Pennsylvania could figure out a way to collect even more Act 44/Act 89 transit subsidies from out-of-state drivers on I-78];
  • I-95 across southern Connecticut (and especially between the New York State border and I-91 in New Haven);
  • I-95 across South Carolina (starting at the end of the short six lane section outside Florence, SC-327, South Carolina Exit 170), all of North Carolina and into Virginia as far as I-295 just outside Petersburg (Virginia Exit 46); and
  • I-70 across most of Missouri between MO-7 (Exit 20) at Blue Springs and Route Z (Exit 209) at Wentzville.
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Roadsguy

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2018, 11:11:40 PM »

  • I-81 (ideally all the way from Bristol to the I-78 junction in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania (and yes, there are some six-lane sections now));

I'd even say 81 should be eight lanes from Front Street in Harrisburg to I-78. The existing six-lane part of I-78 near Allentown should definitely be eight lanes if the rest is widened to six.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2018, 11:21:00 PM »

The Tier I EIS / location study of 2004 did not support the separate truck lanes, for 2035 projections, a two-lane truck roadway each way would rarely if ever be warranted trafficwise, and a two-lane car roadway each way would not be adequate at high-volume times in the week.  It didn't fit the current or future traffic patterns.
Was that two lanes as in one lane each way for trucks or two lanes each way?  I always assumed it was two lanes each way, as truck traffic volumes on most of I-81 makes one lane each way an ugly proposition, given the great variability between laden and unladen truck weights.

-- A two-lane truck roadway each way
-- A two-lane car roadway each way

That would be a dual-divided highway with 4 separate 2-lane roadways, a 2-2-2-2 lane configuration, that is what STAR Solutions proposed.  Truck roadways on the inside and car roadways on the outside.
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VTGoose

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2018, 09:08:31 AM »

If there is a desire to go with tolling, then I think the tolls should apply to all traffic using  I-81, though if there are gantries between the  interchanges (like MD-200), then perhaps the  first 10 to 20 miles could be free of toll for drivers of cars with E-ZPass transponders.  Note that I strongly suspect that elected officials in the corridor would not like this idea at all, though they might like it better if it was presented as this or do nothing.

If the whole road is tolled, then some type of "resident give-away" needs to be set up like West Virginia does with the WV Turnpike -- like a cost of almost zero for most trips. I don't know about Harrisonburg or Winchester (I'm thinking I-81 may be used as a bypass in those places to get from one side of the city to the other) but there is a lot of commuter traffic on I-81 between the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley -- in both directions. If people who drive or carpool to work every day for free are presented with a "pay to drive" plan, it might get support but the multiple back-road routes will be choked with cars avoiding the toll road.

The "better" plan (for a small value of "better") would be to have a special taxing district overlaid on the I-81 corridor with an increase in the gas tax to provide revenue to improve the highway. The downside is that there are probably more people from all regions of Virginia who use and benefit from I-81 vs. the number of Virginians from across the state who use (and benefit from improvements to) roads in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. For example, there are more people from Northern Virginia who use I-81 to reach JMU, Virginia Tech, and Radford multiple times during a year vs. people from Southwest Virginia who travel to NOVA/Washington, D.C. maybe once a year if ever.

Bruce in Blacksburg
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cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2018, 10:45:54 AM »


-- A two-lane truck roadway each way
-- A two-lane car roadway each way

That would be a dual-divided highway with 4 separate 2-lane roadways, a 2-2-2-2 lane configuration, that is what STAR Solutions proposed.  Truck roadways on the inside and car roadways on the outside.

Thanks for the reminder.  That configuration seems pretty reasonable, perhaps with climbing lanes in some places (IMO not that many). The car lanes would have been "free," right?
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