Virginia transportation officials are considering a plan to widen Interstate 81 to eight lanes. In the plan, truckers would pay tolls to use four reserved lanes. Under the proposal, truck tolls would pay at least half the cost of the I-81 project. Federal and state taxes on fuel and other transportation resources would repay the remaining debt.
Cars would travel in the remaining four, toll-free lanes from Bristol to the Winchester area. The lanes would be separated by rumble-strip medians along most stretches, and by concrete barriers in places. There would be separate ramps for cars and trucks at major truck-route interchanges.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said in 1999 that a six-lane widening on I-81 would cost $3.4 billion and take about 30 years under its conventional pay-as-you-go financing. Gov. Mark Warner called the new proposal "a promising approach" that "deserves serious consideration." While both officials and truckdrivers agree safety will improve if cars and trucks are separated, OOIDA member Howard Boswell, of Granite Shoals, TX, says this is just another attempt to dip into the pockets of truckers for funds. "This is pure double taxation, targeting trucks to pay for roads," Boswell says. "It's just another scheme to make money off truckers." If VDOT approves the proposal, construction could begin by 2005.