RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has been named a Top 12 national finalist in the 13th annual America’s Transportation Awards competition sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. VDOT’s I-81 Corridor Operations Expansion Program won in the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials regional competition in the Operations Excellence – Small Project category for implementing operational solutions to improve reliability and safety along the corridor. As a Top 12 finalist, the I-81 Corridor Operations Expansion Program will be considered for top national awards presented by AASHTO at its annual meeting in November.

“This recognition highlights the Commonwealth’s commitment to implementing innovative solutions along a vital corridor that is both the Main Street to many citizens, and the key economic corridor in western Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Our transportation system is the foundation for Virginia’s economy, and we are committed to maintaining a safe, reliable transportation network for those who live and travel in the Commonwealth.”

The I-81 Corridor Operations Expansion Program is part of the larger I-81 Corridor Improvement Program, designed to address travel time delay and safety concerns. A 2018 study by VDOT found that 11.7 million trucks transport $312 billion in goods along this corridor each year. There are also more than 2,000 vehicle crashes annually, 26 percent of which involve heavy trucks. The resulting travel delay is unpredictable and impacts both heavy commercial vehicle on-time performance and travel for passenger vehicles. The I-81 Corridor Improvement Program is expected to reduce annual hours of delay by more than 6 million and cut the number of crashes in the corridor by 450 each year. 

In July 2019, VDOT began implementing operational improvements including traffic cameras, changeable message signs, curve warning systems, additional Safety Service Patrol resources, and innovative towing programs. By December 2019, these strategies had already resulted in a 58% increase in Safety Service Patrol responses to incidents, a four-minute reduction in incident and emergency response times, a seven-minute reduction in incident clearance times, and a reduction of 100,000 vehicle hours of delay, improving regional travel reliability and economic vitality through greater mobility.

“We are pleased to receive this recognition from our colleagues and the industry for creating innovative, data-driven solutions that reflect a VDOT of the 21st century,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “The focus of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program is a priority to keep motorists moving safely, and these operational improvements were the first of many enhancements coming to this challenging corridor.”

The America’s Transportation Awards competition showcases impactful projects delivered by state departments of transportation to tell the broader story of the importance of transportation.