Goodlatte Responds to General Assembly Members on I-81
I-81 is a key route for transportation in Virginia as well as through much of the eastern United States. While high traffic is evidence of the growing economic strength of the commonwealth, high usage has an impact on road conditions, congestion, and safetyToday, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) sent a letter to several members of the Virginia General Assembly and local Chambers of Commerce in response to their inquiries regarding improvements to the I-81 corridor. Click here to view the original letter from state lawmakers.
The text of the letter is available below. A PDF copy may be found here.
Dear Members of the Virginia General Assembly,
Thank you for your January 25, 2018, letter regarding the future of Interstate 81. As you know, since being elected to Congress, I have commuted via I-81 every week from my home in Roanoke to Washington, D.C. I also regularly use the route when visiting communities throughout the Sixth Congressional District. As a fellow I-81 driver, I share your concerns for the long-term planning, improvement, and safety of the interstate and appreciate you taking the time to send me your thoughts.
I-81 is a key route for transportation in Virginia as well as through much of the eastern United States. While high traffic is evidence of the growing economic strength of the commonwealth, high usage has an impact on road conditions, congestion, and safety. We agree that significant efforts must be made in order to fully address improvements to the 325 miles of I-81 in Virginia.
For Fiscal Year 2018, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimated $1.06 billion of its budget, roughly 19.5%, would be provided in dedicated funding by the federal government. I believe that VDOT continues to serve as the best entity to fairly evaluate, create, and execute strategies to address infrastructure needs across the commonwealth using both state and federal funding. Additionally, I recognize the challenges of fairly addressing infrastructure needs in urban, suburban, and rural areas of Virginia while operating under funding constraints that limit the ability of the commonwealth to create long-term budgets to support a holistic revitalization strategy for I-81.
Throughout the years there have been significant hurdles to the creation of such a comprehensive approach, including environmental concerns, eminent domain, and the obstacle of rerouting infrastructure through protected historic and natural sites. These hurdles, coupled with fiscal constraints and the controversial nature of funding mechanisms such as tolling, which has historically been unpopular in many communities, has resulted in a mammoth project that is not easily undertaken. However, these areas must be addressed by VDOT in order to move forward with an efficient and achievable plan of action.
As you know, since 2011, the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives has banned the use of earmarks, precluding Virginia’s congressional delegation from pursuing targeted appropriations for projects such as I-81. In light of this restriction, I have continued to support the commonwealth’s applications to federal grant programs. In November, I jointly authored a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao voicing support for Virginia’s $52.9 million request from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program. It is my understanding that INFRA grants are expected to be awarded during the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2018.
Your letter also requested that the Virginia congressional delegation support I-81 through a national infrastructure initiative directed by the current administration. As you know, the White House recently announced a proposal to rebuild and maintain America’s infrastructure, outlining a $200 billion appropriations request from Congress, in order to spur an estimated $1.5 trillion in investment. The proposal also requests reforms in the permitting process and the return to major decision-making authority to each state. As this proposal is considered by the House of Representatives, please know that I will be evaluating any additional options to support I-81, and will be in close contact with officials from all levels of government, including members of Virginia’s General Assembly, should such an occasion arise.
I stand ready to assist the commonwealth in navigating the regulatory approval and grants process and will continue to monitor additional opportunities to support the I-81 corridor whenever possible. Please feel free to contact our offices should you have questions or require additional information.