By Matt de Simone
Last month, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a plan to improve the gateway into the Town of Buchanan. Most notably, improving the “S-curves” around mile markers 167-169 of Exit 168.
In 2018, the Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan that pinpointed $2 billion worth of improvement projects. The General Assembly and Governor Northam created the Interstate 81 Improvement Fund to construct those areas of the interstate that were in need.
Improvements to this section of I-81 will take pressure off Route 11, which inherits heavy traffic flow if there is a crash or delay in and around Exit 168. The exit troubles are also an issue for local emergency vehicles to be allowed uninterrupted passage through Buchanan. Many crashes on this stretch of interstate caused increased concern from local citizens and government officials. The fatality rate is six times the district average for interstates.
The improvements around Exit 168 in Buchanan will cost roughly $200 million. Since Virginia officials passed the legislation to improve I-81, other regions the interstate passes through received maintenance. Virginia House of Delegates Representative Terry Austin believes the Exit 168 improvements are long overdue for the area.
“I think we’ve got an opportunity now to make an ask and support it,” Austin explained.
Austin worked with other state officials to funds other projects in Virginia, including the improvements to I-64 east of Richmond.
“I told [Secretary of Transportation Shannon] Valentine that I supported a project in Eastern Virginia, I need you to support a project [in Buchanan],” Austin continued. “I try to support transportation needs where they’re needed around the Commonwealth.”
The county passed on the copy of the legislation presented to the Board of Supervisors to county legislation representatives, the Transportation Board, and Virginia Department of Transportation’s Salem District engineer for further review.