Virginia Delegate Ben Cline has struck out on a couple of
proposals intended to improve safety and ease congestion on Interstate 81, but
he’s still in the batters box with a couple of others.
Earlier this year, the Northern Virginia lawmaker introduced
a series of bills and budget amendments aimed at widening some segments of the
interstate, increasing the number of state trooper patrols along the corridor,
and promoting rail improvements to divert some of the freight now being hauled
He said his “low-cost, no-cost reforms” – which have a price
tag of about $4 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
A bill that would have increased penalties for parking on
highway exit ramps died when a House panel failed to take up the measure and
pass it to the full House prior to the Feb. 8 deadline for bills to move from
their originating chamber.
The measure – HB2609 – called for violators to be fined as
much as $500 and be subjected to as many as four demerit points added to their
The House Transportation Committee shelved another
Cline-created effort that sought to allow state police to place retired patrol
cars in the median of I-81 to deter speeders. The panel voted 13-7 to kill the
bill – HB2608.
Cline, R-Amherst, told The Roanoke Times he won’t
give up on the idea, even though lawmakers have rejected it in each of the past
Meanwhile, a handful of proposals have advanced through the
Virginia House and are closer to becoming law.
A proposed amendment to the 2004-2006 state budget would
provide $110,000 in overtime pay for state troopers patrolling I-81.
Another amendment included in the House budget would provide
additional funding for widening projects along the interstate. One such project
would add a third, truck-climbing lane on I-81 northbound from Lexington to
A third budget amendment would provide more than $10 million
in new funding for rail improvements by redirecting a $2 fee assessed on
driver’s licenses into a rail improvement fund.
The Senate approved a bill that would create a permanent
I-81 safety task force that would include private citizens, a state police
representative, local government officials and representatives of the trucking
and highway construction industries.
The bill – HB2554 – combined with a resolution – HJ709 – offered by Cline, would encourage Virginia to work with other states to improve
intermodal rail transportation along the coast. HB2554, which previously passed
the House, is headed to Gov. Mark Warner for final approval.
Cline insists that an improved rail system is a key element
to diverting some freight from the corridor and reducing truck traffic.