WINCHESTER –Commonwealth Transportation Board member Mark Merrill is optimistic that the infrastructure bill proposed by the Biden administration could help fund improvements to roads in Virginia, including to Interstate 81.
Merrill, of Winchester, made his comments at the Frederick County Transportation Forum on Tuesday night at the Winchester Regional Airport. The meeting provided an opportunity for people to discuss county road issues with local and state leaders.
Merrill said he hoped the infrastructure bill money could be used to add lanes to segments of I-81 that have a history of congestion and danger to drivers.
In July 2019, a 2.1% increase in the Virginia gasoline tax went into effect along the I-81 corridor, including in Winchester and Frederick County, to help fund $ 2 billion. I-81 upgrades dollars. Locally, the project involves widening I-81 north and south to three lanes between exits 313 and 317, extending the acceleration lane on the highway to the truck weighing station on the I-81 north at kilometer 304, and the addition of more message signs and cameras along the Frederick County portion of the highway.
Merrill said that while the limited gas tax improvements are “not what everyone would like, they are a step in the right direction,” and that the extra money from the federal government could lead to more improvements. substantial.
Wendy Gooditis, Tenth District, D-Clarke County, and Bill Wiley, 29th District, R-Winchester, said they were looking for financing solutions for improving roads in the Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke areas County. The two delegates said they wanted to ensure that local road projects received their fair share of state funding.
Wiley said if the infrastructure bill passes, he will advocate for the use of the funds to improve I-81.
“We’re just way behind, and it’s gotten dangerous,” Wiley said of the freeway.
Stephens town officials have indicated their willingness to reduce traffic congestion in the town by moving I-81 exit 307 further south. However, Frederick Couty’s deputy planning director John Bishop said that while this project is important, it has been difficult to get started due to its prohibitive cost of $ 241 million.
Bishop said several forum residents asked him for updates on the proposed extension of Virginia 37 east to bypass Frederick County. The $ 770 million project has been in the works for decades, but never got funding.
The lack of cycling options in Frederick County is also of concern to many residents. Many complained that there was no safe way for cyclists to get to Winchester by bike.
Winchester resident Eric Fitzpatrick said he was “appalled at how anti-cycling this community is” and said bike lanes and lanes are needed for transportation and recreation.
County planners said Tuesday evening that they plan to further explore the bicycle problem. Bishop said that while the most recent road projects and planned road projects take cycling into consideration, the biggest challenge is to renovate the bike lanes on the existing narrow roads.