In a show of bipartisanship, Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature April 3 passed Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) $280 million annual funding plan for Interstate 81 and other highway improvements.

The revenue comes from a local 2.1 percent tax on the average wholesale price of fuel in districts along the I-81 corridor which raises gas prices by about 7 cents-per-gallon in those areas. Truck registration fees will increase in this year and by 2021 the diesel tax will increase to 2.03 percent of the state average wholesale price per gallon. The revenue generated from the local gas tax and diesel tax will go toward the I-81 Improvement Fund, but other revenue will be distributed to other transportation projects.

The plan dedicates $151 million annually toward a $2 billion program approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December 2018. This program will fund critical improvements to I-81 identified by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Some I-81 improvements in design include the addition of auxiliary lanes, adjusting capacity for exit lanes, interchange improvements, and ramp extensions.

The remaining annual balance is allocated to other Virginia interstate projects:

  • $40 million to I-95
  • $28 million to I-64
  • $20 million to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority
  • $43 million reserved for interstates as prioritized by the Commonwealth Transportation Board

A November 2018 ARTBA study concluded that  $2 billion in highway investment along  Virginia’s I-81 would generate more than twice as much economic activity along the  corridor support over 15,240 local jobs. The improved roadway conditions and reduced congestion also would spur more manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, and retail businesses activity.

Virginia Senate Bill 1716 is one of the 231 state transportation investment bills ARTBA-TIAC has tracked in the first quarter of 2019. Live tracking and analysis is available on the TIAC website.