On behalf of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and its members, thank you for the opportunity to address our region’s transportation priorities.

Strengthening the reliability between the Roanoke and New River Valleys along I-81 is a focus for the Chamber. While supportive of the transparent and objective approach that SMART SCALE uses to allocate transportation funding, it has become increasingly apparent that our region is at a competitive disadvantage in the scoring process.

Clearly, we don’t have the same level of congestion as Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Perhaps viewed as a “good” problem to face, this “lack” of congestion makes competing for high priority funds under the current scoring system difficult for our Region.

Under the current scoring system, I-81 is not viewed as having a congestion problem but rather a reliability problem. Our local elected leaders attempted to correct the scoring disparity through legislation last year which, if passed, would have integrated highway reliability as a factor in the current scoring system. Unfortunately, this measure was not successful.

The 1-81 corridor is the leading transportation complaint we continuously hear from our Chamber members. The need to remedy I-81 is immediate and critical, particularly as we further develop our regional partnerships with the New River Valley. We urge you to consider changes to the scoring system to include reliability as a factor in funding decisions.

In line with strengthening our regional ties, the Chamber applauds the CTB for funding a feasibility study to examine the expansion of passenger rail in to the New River Valley.

By adding a new layer to our multi-modal transportation portfolio, we will be able to decrease the number of vehicles on I-81 and offer a more reliable and safe commuter option. Ultimately, we hope to see service extend into Bristol, and this study is an important first step in reaching that goal.

Our region is growing at a rate that our aging infrastructure will not be able to support, so we are relying on our leaders to consider creative solutions to meet our transportation needs. We understand that significant transportation investment comes at a cost, and we appreciate our local CTB leaders advocating for our region.

Improvements to I-81, expanded passenger rail, and better air service are directly tied to the economic growth and regionalism we need to strengthen our business climate. On behalf of the Chamber, thank you for your dedicated service to the Commonwealth and for your consideration of these transportation priorities.