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Warner: Infrastructure act means I-81 funds, broadband expansion

Warner: Infrastructure act means I-81 funds, broadband expansion

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Finding funding for much-needed Interstate 81 improvements has been discussed for at least the two decades Virginia Sen. Mark Warner has been active in state politics, he said during a press call Thursday morning.

At long last, said the third-term Democrat and former governor, federal fix-up funds are coming by way of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1.2 trillion nationwide law was signed into action Monday after months of debate between Republicans and Democrats, and it includes a bundle of infrastructure dollars for Virginia.

“We will finally see those improvements on I-81 that are long overdue,” Warner said. “That’ll get some of the truck traffic off of I-81, by some of the transportation improvements.”

More than 11.7 million trucks annually, or 42% of Virginia’s total yearly interstate tractor-trailer traffic, navigate the 325-mile I-81 corridor, according to state data. Those trucks transport an estimated $312 billion worth of goods per year along the North-South route, according to that data.

“With the increased support for freight rail, that’ll be another way to get some of that truck traffic off of I-81,” he said, adding that he hopes rail will travel all the way from Northern Virginia, southward to Bristol.

I-81 improvements, everything from extra lanes to increased safety measures, are funded for more than $1 billion through 2027, with over $2.8 billion expected to be spent through 2038, according to Virginia Department of Transportation data.

A per-gallon regional fuels tax funds the project at about $59 million per year, while allocations from an interstate enhancement fund contributes about $71 million per year, according to state data.

Additionally through the infrastructure act, Virginia will see an additional $800 million for high-speed broadband connectivity, to combine with $700 million previously allocated to the state from federal coronavirus relief funds, he said.

“There should not be a home anywhere in Virginia over the next 2-3 years that doesn’t have access to high-speed internet at an affordable price,” Warner said.

Warner said he helped to author the bill, and added that it is estimated to create 2 million jobs across the nation each year for the next decade.

“This bill just isn’t about dealing with roads or bridges or making sure we get rid of lead pipes for water, or expanding high-speed internet,” Warner said. “It really is about adding prosperity to our nation.”

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