Proposals to fund I-81 improvements come to a halt

February 5, 2019

In 2018, the General Assembly required the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to prepare a plan that identified options for financing more than $2 billion in improvements to end severe bottlenecks along this heavily travelled corridor. Various bills to establish new revenue sources on I-81, through either tolls or tax increases, were modified in each chamber so that none contain any revenue to fund improvements.

HB 2718 (Landes) and SB 1716 (Obenshain) as introduced establish the “Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program and Fund” and authorizes the CTB to impose tolls to finance improvements. Both measures as adopted in committee remove the tolling authority and instead create a committee to further study the improvement plan and report to next year’s legislature recommendations for raising the revenue necessary to implement it.

SB 1322 (Hanger), a bill to add an additional 2.1 percent tax on motor fuels sold at wholesale to a retail dealer for sale in a locality along the I-81 Corridor, was rolled into SB 1470 (Edwards). This proposal adds an additional 5 percent to the motor fuels tax statewide. Out of this additional revenue, $300 million would be reserved for improvements along I-81. The bill was amended in committee to remove the additional levy and simply directs the Secretary of Transportation to (1) evaluate the impact of increased fuel efficiency and increased use of hybrid and electric vehicles on transportation revenues; and (2) develop potential options to provide a sustainable funding stream for transportation infrastructure.

With the legislature seemingly giving up on funding for I-81 at the halfway point of the session, it remains to be seen whether the Northam Administration will try to jumpstart the effort as these bills move forward.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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