Commonwealth Transportation Board highway safety team, approves I-81 improvement plan

virginiaSecretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine on Wednesday presented Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, announced the conclusion of the yearlong Interstate 81 (I-81) Corridor Improvement Plan study, and formally introduced the secretariat’s new Director of Research and Innovation for the Commonwealth.

The Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, comprised of representatives from Virginia’s Departments of Motor Vehicles, State Police, Transportation, Health, and Education, will focus on shifting a positive travel safety culture to reduce roadway crashes and associated deaths and injuries.

One of the team’s first initiatives, a Digital Town Hall, invites the public to provide thoughtful feedback on how to curb safety issues, including distracted driving.

The CTB voted today to approve the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan developed by a study team supported by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). As set forth in Senate Bill 971 (now Acts of Assembly Chapter 743), the study was to identify priorities along Virginia’s 325 miles of I-81 and potential revenue sources that could be dedicated to improvements. The study team established a portfolio of targeted solutions to improve travel on I-81 as well as a variety of funding mechanisms that could support the improvements. The team will now submit its findings to the General Assembly prior to the first day of the 2019 Session.

“The I-81 corridor is one of the Commonwealth’s vital gateways to economic prosperity,” said Secretary Valentine. “Our team is committed to value-driven multimodal improvements to increase safety and reliability.”

“Both the process and the final product involved broad public transparency and input, which illustrated the need and willingness to support this transportation project,” said F. Dixon Whitworth, Jr., Vice Chairman of the CTB and representative of the Staunton District.

In other business, Secretary Valentine announced that Catherine C. McGhee, P.E., has been named the new Director of Research and Innovation for the Commonwealth. The position will focus on collaborative efforts in innovation and research among Virginia’s transportation agencies, including the Department of Aviation, DRPT, Virginia Space, the Virginia Port Authority, VDOT, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The position will work across the Commonwealth’s multimodal transportation system to identify collective opportunities, coordinate research, and create an entrepreneurial environment within the transportation sector.

“Cathy’s years of leadership experience and engineering expertise at the Virginia Transportation Research Council make her the perfect candidate to lead and coordinate Virginia’s efforts in this space,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.

During the meeting, the CTB approved four contracts totaling $52.4 million for maintenance and construction roadway projects in the VDOT’s Richmond, Lynchburg, Salem, and Fredericksburg districts.

  • A $24.9 million contract was awarded to Corman Kokosing Construction Company, of Annapolis Junction, MD, to replace two bridges that carry Interstate 64 over Route 156 (Airport Drive) in Henrico County, part of VDOT’s Richmond District.
  • A $16.8 million contract was awarded to English Construction Company Inc., of Lynchburg, to replace a bridge that carries Route 29 Business (Main Street) over the Staunton River and Norfolk Southern Railroad in Campbell County, located in VDOT’s Lynchburg District.
  • A $5.5 million contract was awarded to DLB Enterprises, LLC, of Hillsville, to replace a bridge that carries Route 122 over the Blackwater River in Franklin County, part of VDOT’s Salem District.
  • A $5.2 million contract was awarded to Slurry Pavers, Inc., of Richmond, to provide resurfacing in various locations in VDOT’s Fredericksburg District.

Additionally, the Board approved a Virginia Shortline Railway Preservation and Development grant worth approximately $231,000 to Superb Solutions for You, Inc., a start-up manufacturer of environmentally friendly water treatment chemicals that mitigate harmful agricultural waste, purify drinking water, and treat wastewater. The grant supports the company’s $2.3 million new facility in Sussex County and will allow it to import raw materials and export finished product by rail. Superb Solutions has also committed to transporting 60 rail carloads annually and establishing 25 new jobs. The two-mile track rehabilitation will remove approximately 884 trucks from Virginia highways per year.

Prospective rail and public transportation grantees can submit grant funding requests for FY 2020 beginning Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, through 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. The application period marks the first year the CTB will implement the new project-based prioritization process for the statewide transit capital program known as Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT) and adopted by the 2018 General Assembly. It will also feature a revised allocation process for statewide transit operations funding based entirely upon service delivery factors.

Additionally, rail applications will be evaluated on abilities to meet goals of the 2017 Statewide Rail Plan, support or advance design related to Long Bridge or the DC2RVA high speed rail plan, and enhance existing statewide passenger rail services.

Once the application period closes, DRPT will evaluate all submissions and submit to the CTB a list of recommended project funding in April 2019 for the FY 2020-2025 Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP).

Appointed by the governor, the 17-member CTB establishes the administrative policies and approves funding allocation for Virginia’s transportation system.

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