WINCHESTER — Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke County) has been unanimously elected chair of the Interstate 81 Advisory Committee.
Gooditis was selected to the post on Friday.
“I’m grateful to the committee members who have placed their trust in me,” Gooditis said in a news release. “I-81 is vital to western Virginia’s economy. I look forward to supporting the economic growth of this region while working to ensure that I-81 is a safe and reliable roadway for all motorists.”
In 2019, the General Assembly established the I-81 Advisory Committee to provide feedback and make recommendations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) regarding the development of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program and updates to the plan. The $2 billion program was approved by the CTB in December 2018. It is being funded through efforts of the Virginia General Assembly, including a gas tax along the 325-mile I-81 corridor in Virginia, that were signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in spring 2019.
The committee has 15 voting members: seven state lawmakers, three CTB members representing the Bristol, Salem, and Staunton districts, and five planning district commission chairpersons. The commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation serve on the committee ex officio in nonvoting capacities.
As the committee’s head, Gooditis will help define agendas, lead meetings and guide committee discussions. She also will work with VDOT on the yearly report of the committee’s recommendations for the governor and the General Assembly.
Gooditis told The Star that VDOT has made significant progress on the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program, which aims to increase motorist safety while minimizing delays. As part of the I-81 Corridor Operations Expansion Program, designed to address travel time delay and safety concerns, VDOT has installed closed-circuit television, traffic cameras and changeable message signs locally on I-81 northbound at mile marker 308.7 and I-81 southbound at mile marker 319.3. An upcoming project in Frederick County, at mile marker 304, will lengthen the acceleration extension to give drivers more time merge onto I-81 northbound safely.
“Fortunately, COVID-19 has not affected the Improvement Plan, and the improvement projects remain fully-funded,” Gooditis said. “My role is to support these ongoing projects while identifying areas of need or improvement. Public participation is critical, of course, and I would welcome input from Winchester and Frederick County residents.”
Gooditis has advocated for I-81 safety improvements since she was first elected to the House of Delegates. She won election to her first term in November 2017. Her district consists of portions of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties.
More information about the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program and the committee is available at www.improve81.org.