The Virginia Department of Transportation is using a variety of tools and techniques to improve safety and reduce delays along a critical East Cost freight route.
As a critical north-south backbone of the East Coast’s freight network, the Interstate 81 corridor is vital to the efficient movement of goods through Virginia. More than one-third of all trucks and nearly 50% of Virginia’s value of goods are transported along the 325-mile corridor. While the vehicle miles traveled on I-81 in this region have increased over the years, I-81 has remained largely unchanged and improvements to the interstate underfunded.
In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed – and Governor Ralph Northam signed into law – legislation establishing, for the first time, a dedicated funding source to address safety and reliability issues along the I-81 corridor and on interstates across the Commonwealth.
The I-81 Corridor Operations Expansion is part of a larger I-81 Corridor Improvement Program to address congestion and safety. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) determined more than 50% of congestion along the corridor was due to traffic incidents, and the agency used performance metrics to better identify, prevent, and clear them.
In July 2019, VDOT began implementing targeted improvements, including traffic cameras, changeable message signs, curve warning systems, service patrol resource enhancements, and innovative towing programs.
By December 2019, these strategies had already resulted in a reduction of 100,000 vehicle hours of delay, a four-minute reduction in incident and emergency response times, a seven-minute reduction in incident clearance times, and a 58% increase in service patrol incident responses, improving regional travel reliability and the economy through greater mobility.
Within Virginia, I-81 connects 30 colleges and universities, 21 cities and towns, and 13 counties, and parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, making this program critical to supporting job growth and economic vitality while reducing congestion, enhancing safety and reliability, and improving quality of life for everyone who lives and travels in the region.
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