WINCHESTER — Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, has been appointed to serve on a commission created to find additional money to make much-needed improvements to Interstate 81.
In April, the General Assembly approved new taxes on fuel and truck registration fees to pay for $2.2 billion in improvements to the road's 325-mile Virginia corridor, including widening I-81 in Frederick County between exits 313 (Millwood Pike) and 317 (Martinsburg Pike), northbound and southbound.
Effective July 1 in localities along the I-81 corridor, including Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties, there will be an increase of 7.6 cents per gallon for gasoline and 7.7 cents for diesel.
The commission, established by an act of the General Assembly last session, seeks to find funding for the remainder of more than $3 billion in I-81 improvements originally identified in a state study. More than 2,000 crashes occur each year on I-81, with more than a quarter involving heavy trucks.
Collins is one of four House of Delegates members appointed to the commission by House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
"I'm looking forward to doing the work," Collins said, adding that the commission will likely meet several times before the 2020 legislative session begins in January.
Other committee members include three state senators and members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board representing the Bristol, Salem and Staunton districts, including Staunton District representative Dixon Whitworth of Winchester.
Last session, a proposal to implement an I-81 tolling system did not pass, though legislators anticipate the commission will bring that and other proposals back to the table in 2020. New fuel taxes proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam were approved during a special session in April. With those taxes about to go into effect, Collins said all ideas will be considered for additional funding to make I-81 a six-lane highway in Virginia.
"We have exit ramps that were built in 1960 and haven't been touched since," Collins said about the stretch of I-81 in Frederick County.
Whitworth has said that he is open to all ideas for securing additional funding for I-81.