Virginia: I-81 fix getting mixed reviews from area politicians

Drivers, advocates and lawmakers say the highway has become dangerous and prone to lengthy backups and congestion as it has failed to keep up with increasing traffic since the interstate was built a half-century ago.

The package was included in budget amendments by Gov. Ralph Northam during the one-day veto session on April 3. Under Northam’s amendments, increases in tractor-trailer fees and the tax on diesel fuel will help raise an estimated $280 million annually, with about half that money to pay for I-81 improvements and the rest going for other interstate projects in Virginia.

Localities along the 325-mile I-81 corridor, which in Virginia runs from the Tennessee border in the south to the West Virginia line in the north, also will see a 2.1 percent increase in a regional wholesale tax paid on regular gas and diesel.

The new revenue is meant to help Virginia begin to raise more than $2 billion to pay for I-81 improvements already identified by the state.