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Poll data released on possible improvements to I-81

This article originally appeared in The News Virginian on December 17, 2018.

RICHMOND — The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) released the results Monday of an opinion poll that collected the thoughts of residents from the Interstate-81 corridor on the necessity of improvements to the highway.

The poll, done by the opinion research company Public Opinion Strategies (POS), found that most people living in the area believe that improvements need to be made to the road. According to a press release from the VTCA, almost nine out of every 10 voters in the poll would support a $2 billion investment in the improvements.

The survey polled 500 registered voters along the I-81 corridor, 200 of which were contacted through an interview over their cell phone.

A press release from POS listed other key takeaways from the study, including that 45 percent of the respondents gave the road a “D” or even an “F” grade. The voters also gave the highway a grade point average of 1.6. In addition, most of them do not feel safe on I-81, especially older voters. The survey found that the majority [about 67 percent] of the voters use I-81 on a daily or weekly basis.

“I’m apprehensive, but excited about what the government is going to do on this,” said Marshall Pattie, the North River Magisterial District Supervisor on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and a Professor of Management at James Madison University. “There are a lot of opportunities there, but how they’re going to pay for it is obviously the biggest issue.”

The voters believe that the improvements should be funded with tolls on freight trucks. Another measure that received under half of the support from the respondents relied on raising gas and sales taxes. Sixty-one percent would support improvements even if it raised their taxes.

A PowerPoint presentation from POS details more about how the research was done. The survey was conducted between Dec. 1 and Dec. 4. Glen Bolger, a GOP strategist and a partner with POS, said that he began work with POS and VTCA on the poll in November.

Several local politicians, including Del. Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave) have been big supporters of improving I-81, and it was a large point of focus at last week’s Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce 2018 Legislative Breakfast.

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