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Author Topic: I-81 in Virginia  (Read 5137 times)

cpzilliacus

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #25 on: August 06, 2018, 10:57:06 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.

Agree about give-away of free or almost-free passage for residents near I-81 for reasonable trip lengths.  It appears to be between 40 and 50 miles for most trips from Blacksburg to Roanoke, for example.  Perhaps the tolling could be for trip lengths over 40 miles only (and tolling starts on the first mile over 40)?  I do not have any issue with  making car-pooling 100% free with an E-ZPass Flex transponder either (but how many people in the I-81 corridor are interested in car-pooling?).

There's plenty of precedent in Virginia for special taxing districts that can levy (added) taxes on motor fuel sold in the district. The misleadingly-named Northern Virginia Transportation Commission  has had a small tax on fuel sold in the counties and cities that  are signatories to the  WMATA compact for many, many  years.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) (Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties and the Cities of Manassas, Manassas Park and Fredericksburg) also collects a tax on motor fuel that subsidizes bus and commuter rail (VRE) operations. 
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VTGoose

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #26 on: August 06, 2018, 11:43:26 AM »

Agree about give-away of free or almost-free passage for residents near I-81 for reasonable trip lengths.  It appears to be between 40 and 50 miles for most trips from Blacksburg to Roanoke, for example.  Perhaps the tolling could be for trip lengths over 40 miles only (and tolling starts on the first mile over 40)?  I do not have any issue with  making car-pooling 100% free with an E-ZPass Flex transponder either (but how many people in the I-81 corridor are interested in car-pooling?).

Actual distance on I-81 for a Blacksburg to Roanoke trip is 25 miles -- MP 118 (U.S. 460) to 142 (I-581).

With electronic/toll-by-plate and a 30/40-mile "free ride," that would take care of most of the NRV/Roanoke Valley trips, and probably most "local" trips for other parts of I-81 such as around Bristol, Harrisonsburg, Winchester, etc. -- anything over that short mileage would appropriately be tagged for a toll of some cost.

As to car pools, there is a large park-and-ride lot in Christiansburg and one at exit 140 in Salem -- both of which were just upgraded and improved. Virginia Tech has an Alternative Transportation office that works with people to set up carpools and gives a break on parking permits for carpools. If someone rides to work in a carpool but has to go home for an emergency, there is a service to provide a free ride. There are also several van pools for employees and bus shuttle service between Blacksburg and Roanoke (serves the VT Medical College and the Carilion Research Center) and Blacksburg and Northern Virginia.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #27 on: August 06, 2018, 01:49:23 PM »

I would have to go find the exact data, but there are substantial amounts of local traffic all along the corridor.  Roanoke-Blacksburg is the most populated area, but there are many towns and small cities along I-81 and within the counties it passes thru.  Probably 20% or more of the traffic at any point is trips of 30 miles or less.

The Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike sold books of commuter tickets at $4.00 for 50 tickets.  I still have a couple of books.  There was no electronic tolling back then.  So that was a 8 cent ticket to give passage at a 25 cent mainline toll plaza, and the last 3 years the toll was increased to 50 cents, and the same tickets were used.  It was a good enough deal that people in the area were reasonably satisfied.
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Scott M. Kozel
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #28 on: August 06, 2018, 01:58:39 PM »

-- 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?

I recall that the basic STAR plan was for tolling of trucks and cars being free.  The Tier I EIS / location study had a variety of alternatives and one was a modification of STAR scheme that tolled all vehicles, had a two-lane truck roadway each way, had a basic two-lane car roadway each way that increased to three lanes or even four lanes in certain high volume areas.  That could address the aforementioned traffic imbalances, but would result in a 10- or 12-lane dual-divided highway in some places, and that would incur construction cost issues as well environmental impact issues.
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Scott M. Kozel
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1995hoo

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #29 on: August 21, 2018, 01:11:59 PM »

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #30 on: August 21, 2018, 10:06:06 PM »

Something must have happened on I-81 Sunday afternoon. As I approached it on VA 8, a VMS stated travel times to Wytheville and Roanoke. Normal travel southbound, but the sign reported the 30-something miles to Roanoke would take 60-something minutes.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #31 on: August 21, 2018, 10:16:26 PM »

Something must have happened on I-81 Sunday afternoon. As I approached it on VA 8, a VMS stated travel times to Wytheville and Roanoke. Normal travel southbound, but the sign reported the 30-something miles to Roanoke would take 60-something minutes.

Better than what I saw just north of Fort Chiswell on August 22nd in 2017, the day after the solar eclipse (today is the anniversary BTW, I went to Tennessee to see it).  The VMS said that the highway was blocked just north of Christiansburg, and said to seek alternate routes.  I left I-81 and went down I-77 to US-58 to US-360 for the trip back to Richmond.   Later reports said that a truck wreck was blocking the NB roadway.

Interesting statement in this long report -- 

"I-81 has the lowest proportion of Recurring Delay and the highest proportion of Incident Delay of any interstate in Virginia"

Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan Update
July 2018
http://www.ctb.virginia.gov/resources/2018/july/pres/1_i_81.pdf
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VTGoose

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #32 on: August 22, 2018, 09:43:40 AM »

Something must have happened on I-81 Sunday afternoon. As I approached it on VA 8, a VMS stated travel times to Wytheville and Roanoke. Normal travel southbound, but the sign reported the 30-something miles to Roanoke would take 60-something minutes.

Last weekend was move-in for Virginia Tech (classes started Monday) so the usual Sunday traffic on I-81 was "enhanced" by all those Hokie Moms and Hokie Dads heading back to NOVA after dropping off their little darlings. I-81 also suffers badly from ripple effects -- a minor slowdown (like something on the shoulder) rolls back through the heavy traffic for several miles. The 511 Southwest VA Twitter feed (@511southwestva) also had a string of accident reports on various parts of Christiansburg Mountain, which is notorious for being the location of many of the "wreck of the day" on this region's section (New River and Roanoke valleys) of I-81.

Bruce in Blacksburg

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #33 on: August 22, 2018, 07:07:09 PM »

Having just returned from my first long term drive on Interstate 81 from Interstate 77 to the Virginia/West Virginia state line and back for the previous two weekends, traffic was horrendous in both directions.  If there was ever an Interstate that needs expansion, Interstate 81 is the candidate.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2018, 06:33:34 PM »

While I'm sure this is a surprise to many, significant progress has been made towards funding I-81 improvements throughout the entire state. However, tolls will likely be involved.
https://www.roanoke.com/news/virginia/highway-officials-release-draft-plan-to-fix-i--for/article_c607609e-23cc-55f4-b309-a6edd5cc0d2a.html
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Interstate 81 motorists in Virginia would have fewer wrecks and spend much less time in backed-up traffic under a $2 billion upgrade proposal outlined in Roanoke Thursday.

Twenty-two capital projects are on a draft wish list developed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and scheduled for final presentation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December and the General Assembly in January. A new northbound lane between Christiansburg and Interstate 581 in Roanoke County would be the largest project constructed in the area.

To pay for the projects, a draft financing proposal recommends an increase in the retail sales and use tax and the motor fuels tax from Bristol to Winchester. The draft proposal also foresees tolls — but not toll booths. Toll electronics on overhead mounts at six locations about 55 miles apart would assess money from trucks and automobiles.
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The study team found $4 billion in work that engineers think the road needs, but since mid-summer whittled that down to a draft wish list of the $2 billions’ worth of projects that a scoring system found would do the most to reduce wrecks and time spent in stalled traffic and commuting .

That breaks down further to spending $882 million in VDOT’s Salem district (which extends from mile marker 87 near the Pulaski County-Wythe County line to mile marker 174 between Buchanan and Natural Bridge), $886 million in VDOT’s Staunton district and $252 billion in VDOT’s Bristol district.

In addition to widening the highway in certain spots, crews would lengthen on and off ramps and make improvements on curves, such as by adding lighted curve-ahead signs.

Excluded from the $2 billion package, but included in the original $4 billion package, is a new southbound lane between mile marker 128 at Ironto and mile marker 152 north of Troutville and a northbound truck-climbing lane in Buchanan.

Valentine said repeatedly that the material presented Thursday in Roanoke was within a draft proposal subject to changes by VDOT and the transportation board before final recommendations go to Richmond. More than 2,500 comments from citizens and interested parties have so far been received, officials said.

In terms of widening, I-81 will be expanded to six lanes:
Southbound from Exit 10 to 7(Bristol)
Southbound from Exit 200 to 194(Lexington)
Southbound from Exit 225 to 217(Staunton)
Southbound from Exit 248 to 243(Harrisonburg)
Southbound from Exit 300 to 296(Strasburg)
Northbound from Exit 118 to 144(Roanoke)
Northbound from Exit 222 to 225(Staunton)
Northbound from Exit 243 to 248(Harrisonburg)

There is also around half a dozen locations where a truck climbing lane will be added. IMO the big snub here is no widening for I-81 southbound through Roanoke. Additionally, I find very difficult to believe that I-81 in the Winchester area was also not deserving of a 3rd lane. Heres the official I-81 corridor improvement plan on the Virginia CTB website:
http://www.ctb.virginia.gov/projects/major_projects/i-81_study.asp
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #35 on: October 26, 2018, 10:13:25 PM »

In terms of widening, I-81 will be expanded to six lanes:
Southbound from Exit 10 to 7(Bristol)
Southbound from Exit 200 to 194(Lexington)
Southbound from Exit 225 to 217(Staunton)
Southbound from Exit 248 to 243(Harrisonburg)
Southbound from Exit 300 to 296(Strasburg)
Northbound from Exit 118 to 144(Roanoke)
Northbound from Exit 222 to 225(Staunton)
Northbound from Exit 243 to 248(Harrisonburg)

58 miles of 6-lane widening.  VA I-81 is 325 miles of which about 25 miles has 6 lanes (as in about 50 miles total of 3-lane directional roadway).

Plus a variety of other improvements to interchanges and bridge replacements.

Unfortunately that shows how far $2 billion will go in today's highway construction world.  Will it help?  Yes, lots.  But far below what is needed.

How are they going to apply for and institute tolls?  You can't just slap tolls on a mainline Interstate highway.  They gave up the slot for the TEA-21 pilot toll program many years ago.
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Scott M. Kozel
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froggie

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #36 on: October 26, 2018, 10:46:31 PM »

^ They "gave up" the toll slot to put it on I-95.  Given their own precedent, it's theoretically possible they could take it from I-95 and put it back on I-81.

Or they could toll the new lanes and only the new lanes.  That's allowable under current Federal law.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #37 on: October 26, 2018, 10:48:59 PM »

^ They "gave up" the toll slot to put it on I-95.  Given their own precedent, it's theoretically possible they could take it from I-95 and put it back on I-81.
Or they could toll the new lanes and only the new lanes.  That's allowable under current Federal law.

They ultimately had to give up the slot on I-95 as well. 

Have 3 general purpose lanes and only one tolled?  Not sure if that has been done.
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Scott M. Kozel
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #38 on: October 26, 2018, 11:02:04 PM »

^ Last I checked FHWA's webpage (admittedly some months ago, but since New Year's 2018), they still had the I-95 slot.

Hasn't been done in rural areas AFAIK, but there are three examples of such (2 free lanes plus one tolled lane in each direction) in the Twin Cities area.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #39 on: October 26, 2018, 11:16:01 PM »

^ Last I checked FHWA's webpage (admittedly some months ago, but since New Year's 2018), they still had the I-95 slot.
Hasn't been done in rural areas AFAIK, but there are three examples of such (2 free lanes plus one tolled lane in each direction) in the Twin Cities area.

I don't see anything here about any state currently having a slot --
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ipd/tolling_and_pricing/tolling_pricing/interstate_rr.aspx

Is that project you cite adding a HOT lane? 
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Scott M. Kozel
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LM117

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #40 on: October 27, 2018, 03:12:54 AM »

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/02/2018-21340/fixing-americas-surface-transportation-fast-act-solicitation-for-candidate-projects-in-the

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Third, the FAST Act gave the States holding provisional approvals at the time the FAST Act was enacted 1 year to satisfy the program criteria or request an extension for an additional year. On the date of enactment, December 4, 2015, three States—Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia—held ISRRPP provisional approvals. Since then, all three have relinquished their program slots.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #41 on: October 27, 2018, 08:22:37 AM »

So FHWA has posted a new solicitation for 3 candidate projects.  None of the 3 states advanced their projects, so they expired.  So Virginia could reapply and most likely get a new conditional approval for I-81.

Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act; Solicitation for Candidate Projects in the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP)
A Notice by the Federal Highway Administration on 10/02/2018
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Scott M. Kozel
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #42 on: October 27, 2018, 10:29:53 AM »

Evidence that until the CTB considers its final plan at its December 5th meeting, improvements along the entire I-81 corridor are still very much subject to change:
http://www.winchesterstar.com/winchester_star/transportation-official-improving-i--in-frederick-county-a-real/article_9dec7782-90cf-53d1-aa08-981743e15b43.html
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There is a good chance that improvements to Interstate 81 from Exit 313 to Exit 317 (Winchester to Rutherford Crossing) will be recommended for funding, according to Dixon Wentworth, the area’s representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Wentworth made the announcement at Frederick County’s fourth annual transportation forum, which was held Thursday night at Winchester Regional Airport. The forum gave citizens a chance to engage one-on-one with elected officials and transportation staff from various agencies. State delegates Wendy Gooditis, Chris Collins and Dave LaRock attended the meeting.

Wentworth said that VDOT staff has determined significant savings could be made in certain I-81 projects planned for other localities. Because of these cost-savings, more money can probably be redirected to other projects — including I-81 in Frederick County.

He said there is a “real possibility” that the state will be able to pay for widening from Exit 313 to Exit 317 northbound and southbound. The project would cost about $140 million.

The audience applauded at the announcement, though Wentworth reminded them that improvements to Exit 313 to Exit 317 are not a “done deal.”

Earlier this year, the General Assembly directed the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to study the entire length of the I-81 corridor in Virginia with the goal of identifying changes that will reduce traffic backups and crashes as well as to find the funding to make those changes.

Due to funding challenges, the state is focusing on getting just $2 billion worth of projects funded in the near future. The I-81 study team unveiled plans for 72 improvement projects last week to local residents at Shenandoah University. The 72 projects selected were based on a data-driven scoring system.

Several potential improvements in Frederick County, such as widening the road and adding auxiliary lanes from Exits 313 to 317, were not recommended to be funded as part of the initial $2 billion investment. This frustrated county staff and local law enforcement, who criticized the scoring system as being severely flawed. Many local officials claimed the county is more in need of roadwork than other localities that had more projects recommended for funding, including Harrisonburg.

Wentworth reminded the audience at the forum Thursday that what they saw at Shenandoah University was no more than a draft, and that it is likely to change. He also said that public support is just as vital a factor in determining what gets funded as statistics are.

Ben Mannell, VDOT project manager in charge of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan, has previously said that the stretch of I-81 between Exits 315 and 317 doesn’t meet the traffic volume threshold required to be considered a “crash hot spot.” However, he acknowledged that in a few years that segment of the interstate will become much more congested due to many planned commercial and residential developments and that will be taken into consideration before the final draft of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan is complete.
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Beltway

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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #43 on: October 27, 2018, 10:52:24 AM »

Certainly the $2 billion of proposed improvements along the entire I-81 corridor are still very much subject to change, given that it is about 1/4 of what would be needed for the end-to-end widening (*) that is needed; so they will need to find a way to prioritize projects along with a way that seems equitable in how the projects are distributed along the corridor. 

(*) Using an average of $25 to $30 million per mile, which is a good benchmark today, that would be $7.5 to $9.0 billion for 300 miles of rural Interstate widening.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #44 on: October 27, 2018, 11:41:19 AM »

Certainly the $2 billion of proposed improvements along the entire I-81 corridor are still very much subject to change, given that it is about 1/4 of what would be needed for the end-to-end widening (*) that is needed; so they will need to find a way to prioritize projects along with a way that seems equitable in how the projects are distributed along the corridor. 

Agreed, and hopefully whether its through other potential funding sources or just time(within 5 years), VA funds further I-81 improvements such as the ones proposed under the original $4 billion package.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #45 on: October 27, 2018, 01:41:17 PM »

Agreed, and hopefully whether its through other potential funding sources or just time(within 5 years), VA funds further I-81 improvements such as the ones proposed under the original $4 billion package.

A major question I have is how they are justifying this, at least partially it looks like it will be outside of SMART SCALE, when supposedly when SMART SCALE was developed, every major project was supposed to be prioritized and justified thru that tool.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #46 on: October 27, 2018, 04:10:07 PM »

I wish we could go ahead and toll existing interstate highways. This is ridiculous.
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #47 on: October 27, 2018, 04:41:13 PM »

Although I agree with you 100%, tolling Interstates has been illegal from the get-go. Of course, back then, and for a few decades after, the only kind of tolling was stop-and-pay toll booths. With electronic tolling, tolling should be easier, if they can get rid of that Interstate toll exemption (which I doubt will happen).
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #48 on: October 27, 2018, 06:21:02 PM »

Adding tolls to Interstate bridges and tunnels has been done in some selected cases.

Adding tolling to a whole rural Interstate corridor is another matter. 

The ISRRPP three toll pilot projects were authorized in TEA-21 back in 1998, and three states applied for and obtained provisional approval for a project.  None have advanced toward an implementation.

If this is any indication of the "popularity" of this, then it doesn't look good at all as far as getting the public and elected officials to agree to it.
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Scott M. Kozel
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Re: I-81 in Virginia
« Reply #49 on: October 29, 2018, 02:05:15 AM »

If people in the I-81 Corridor do not want tolls, will they go for an increase in motor fuel taxes in the counties and cities along I-81 from the Tennessee border on the edge of Bristol to the West Virginia border north of Winchester?  That would be (IMO) a tax that is only to be spent on I-81 widenings; interchange reconstructions; bridge deck replacements; and (where warranted) bridge total replacement projects.
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