Valley delegates express frustration with federal response to request for Interstate 81 assistance

interstate 81Delegates Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, expressed frustration with the lackluster response to the letter sent by 17 General Assembly members to Virginia’s congressional delegation representing the areas along the Interstate 81 corridor.

The delegates said today that Virginia Department of Transportation has identified 41 safety and improvement projects along the Interstate 81 corridor, and it is incumbent upon Congress “to provide the funding required to bring these projects to fruition.”

“The difference between Washington and Virginia could not be clearer, as demonstrated by the response received from our Congressional Delegation,” Bell, Gilbert and Landes said in a joint statement issued today. “U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have not responded to the request. Congressmen Bob Goodlatte, Griffith Morgan, and Barbara Comstock have all indicated their support for a grant submitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, for which they have submitted a joint letter of support. However, this application was submitted last year, and we had hoped that our Congressional members would work with President Donald Trump’s Administration to explore new avenues of funding for Interstate 81.

“The need for assistance on Interstate 81 is great and the level of federal assistance has been lacking. It is disheartening that only Congressman Goodlatte provided a formal written response to a request submitted by 17 members of the General Assembly. While Congressmen Griffith and Comstock reiterated their support for the Commonwealth’s INFRA grant, we are disappointed by their unwillingness to pursue additional options. We are extremely disappointed with the lack of response from our two United States Senators.”

Despite the claims from the delegates that neither of the state’s two U.S. senators had responded to their request, Sen. Tim Kaine did actually provide a formal written response to the delegates.

It may not have been what they wanted to hear, for sure.

In a Feb. 8 letter, Kaine wrote to the group that “I-81 is a good example of why direct federal investment would be the most helpful way to deal with overdue highway needs in Virginia,” and noting his concern “with any plan that relies overwhelmingly on private sector and state and local funding sources without significant federal investment.”

“President Trump’s remarks in the State of the Union about a major infrastructure package were encouraging, but the lack of any real detail was less encouraging,” Kaine wrote in the Feb. 8 letter. “I don’t support an ill-defined private sector giveaway scheme, but I will support a sincere federal investment in infrastructure that is helpful for long-overdue needs on I-81 and across Virginia.”

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