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Spate of I-81 projects to begin this year in Virginia

Spate of I-81 projects to begin this year in Virginia

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BRISTOL, Va. — About $140 million worth of Interstate 81 improvement projects are starting or set to begin this year in Washington, Smyth and Wythe counties.

The projects are part of the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan funding program previously approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December 2018. The $2 billion package of improvements was funded by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2019.

“To already have this amount of work scheduled or underway two years after the program’s inception shows Virginia’s strong commitment and dedication to improving I-81,” said David Covington, I-81 program delivery director.

A $4 million shoulder stabilization project between mile markers 32 and 54 north and southbound in Smyth and Washington counties is already underway.

Bristol District projects scheduled to begin in the second half of 2021 include:

» $2 million safety project between southbound mile marker 38.1 and 39.2 in Smyth County, adding a high-friction epoxy overlay that will improve traction during wet weather and fencing to prevent animals from crossing the interstate.

» $2.7 million to extend the acceleration lane southbound at Exit 47 in Marion.

» $2.1 million to extend the northbound deceleration lane at mile marker 38.9 in Smyth County.

» $2.1 million to extend the southbound deceleration lane at Exit 39 in Smyth County.

» $2.5 million to extend the southbound acceleration lane at mile marker 43 in Smyth County.

» $2.3 million to extend the southbound deceleration lane at Exit 84 in Wythe County.

» $1.6 million to extend the northbound deceleration lane at Exit 67 in Wytheville.

» $1.6 million to extend the deceleration lane northbound at Exit 19 in the Abingdon.

Additionally, a $7 million design-build contract was recently awarded to A&J Development and Excavation of Mt. Crawford, Virginia, to extend the northbound acceleration lane at Exit 48 in Marion. Design begins soon and construction is set to begin late 2021, according to the statement.

VDOT will solicit public feedback for two additional Bristol District projects in 2021.

A public meeting will be held this summer for a proposed $22.1 million project to improve the Interstate 77 Exit 41, Peppers Ferry Road interchange near the junction with I-81. Because of the project’s proximity and impacts to the I-81 corridor, it is also being funded by the program. Construction is anticipated to begin fall 2023.

A separate public meeting will be held this fall for a proposed $28 million project to widen I-81 southbound between mile marker 9.6 and 8 in Washington County to three lanes. Construction is anticipated to begin spring 2024.

This spring, VDOT held a virtual public meeting for three truck climbing lane projects along the corridor, with a combined value of $61.3 million: northbound at mile marker 32.4 in the Glade Spring area of Washington County; northbound at mile marker 39.5 in the Seven Mile Ford area of Smyth County; and southbound at mile marker 34 in Washington County. The truck climbing lane northbound at mile marker 39.5 will be advertised for construction bids in June 2022 and the other two truck climbing lane projects will be advertised summer 2023.

Additionally, four new digital message sign boards will be installed this year in Wythe County: north and southbound at mile marker 74.7, southbound at mile marker 78.6 and northbound at mile marker 79.6, according to the statement.

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