Legislator unveils I-81 package

| 1/7/2005

A Northern Virginia lawmaker this week unveiled a six-point legislative package he thinks would improve safety and ease congestion on Interstate 81.

Delegate Ben Cline said he would introduce a series of bills and budget amendments aimed at widening some segments of the interstate, increasing the number of state troopers patrolling the corridor, and promoting rail improvements to divert some of the freight now being hauled by trucks.

Cline said at a news conference near Mint Spring, VA, that transportation “will be a priority” when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 12. Cline served on a transportation task force to examine funding and other issues.

He said his “low-cost, no-cost reforms” – which have a price tag of about $4.8 million – could address urgent safety and congestion issues on I-81 while state transportation officials continue reviewing a privately developed plan to widen the entire Virginia corridor and create separate lanes for trucks.

The Rockbridge County Republican said he is seeking $1.5 million for the Virginia Department of Transportation to build truck-climbing lanes on the roadway.

Cline will revive two proposals that failed during the 2004 session, The Roanoke Times reported. He will seek $800,000 to add an additional 10 state troopers to patrol the corridor as well as sponsor legislation to allow state police to place retired patrol cars in the median to deter speeders. He also will pursue increased penalties for illegal parking along exit ramps.

In addition, Cline insists that an improved rail system is a key element to diverting some freight from the corridor and reducing truck traffic. Cline said he would sponsor legislation to award $2.5 million in tax credits to rail companies as an incentive to improve their Western Virginia rail lines.