The newly formed Interstate 81 Committee will meet next week in Lexington to discuss the status of highway upgrades.
The Virginia General Assembly approved the formation of the I-81 Committee earlier this year as part of a funding package to fix the crash-plagued highway. Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine will attend the meeting, which will include going over the role of the committee, finances and highway projects.
The public is invited to attend the meeting, which begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Hampton Inn at 401 E. Nelson St.
The committee is expected to hold three more meetings this year along the highway corridor in Virginia to gather public input. Those dates and locations have not been set.
The committee is composed of seven state lawmakers, three members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board representing highway construction districts that include I-81 and the five chairmen of the planning district commissions.
The legislature approved in April a funding package that includes a 2.1% regional fuel tax that will be levied in 36 jurisdictions within five regional planning districts along the corridor. That took effect in July.
Most of the revenue will come from increased registration fees for trucks, based on their weight and wear on roadways, as well as higher taxes on diesel fuel, at the pump and through a North American compact that reimburses states for interstate truck travel.
The road tax will increase 10 cents per gallon in two phases — one starting July 1 and another a year later. In mid-2021, the tax on diesel fuel at the pump will rise 6.8 cents per gallon.
The entire package is expected to generate about $280 million annually, of which, about $150 million will go toward I-81. The rest will be disbursed to regions elsewhere in Virginia for transportation needs.
The funding for I-81 will go toward $2 billion in projects identified by the Virginia Department of Transportation and approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The board can revisit the list to add more projects as the initial projects commence, or if a new, critically needed project emerges.
The I-81 Committee will review the list of projects to prioritize highway upgrades, such as widening sections of the highway, lengthening access ramps and installing message signs.
The committee will give its recommendations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which has the final say.
The General Assembly will receive a report with updates on I-81 projects and funding each year. The first report is due Dec. 15.