RICHMOND, Va. — The search for ways to pay for infrastructure improvements along the Interstate 81 corridor is still ongoing.
Governor Ralph Northam has proposed 15 pages of amendments to two bills, SB 1716 and HB 2718, that passed the General Assembly this year and gave $151 million towards roadway projects. The legislation comes after the Commonwealth Transportation Board released a report last year, finding the corridor needed $2 billion of work.
Unlike other highways in the Commonwealth, Gov. Northam says there is “no dedicated funding source” for this 325-mile stretch of roadway.
“There’s no question the volume, you can just look at here right now, the volume in I-81 with both cars, trucks, campers — you name it — has increased significantly and has made it more unreliable and less safe,” Gov. Northam said.
The Eastern Shore Democrat says fixing these roads will also help the economy. State officials estimate $300 billion in goods are transported along it.
This is vitally important for our economy… If we’re going to be number in this country, and I think we can, we need to invest in our transportation infrastructure,” he added. “People need a safe and reliable interstate in order to visit.”
Among the proposals is a 2.1 percent tax increase for gas sold in the region with the corridor, as well as increased registration fees for trucks, which is calculated by how much the vehicle weighs.
Last year, the Commonwealth Transportation Board developed at $2 billion plan to improve the roadway. Gov. Northam says these changes will cut down on delays by 6 million hours and eliminate 450 crashes each year.
The amendments give a total of $151 million to I-81, but it also allocates money to other interstates, including $40 to I-95, $28 million to I-65, and $20 million to NVTA. $43 million will be reserved for other interstates prioritized by CTB.
There is still the question of whether the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox will allow a vote on these amendments, because they might not be closely connected enough to the original bills.
When asked about this, a spokesperson for Speaker’s office said, “The Speaker is still reviewing all of the Governor’s Amendments ahead of Wednesday’s reconvened session.”
Gov. Northam remained hopeful that lawmakers would back his plan when they return to Richmond.
“We’ll continue to work with our legislators until now and Wednesday,” he added.
On Wednesday, lawmakers will reconvene at the capitol to vote on the rest of the Governor’s amendments and legislation he vetoed. So far, Northam has vetoed 17 bills this year.