A poll paid for by the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found strong support for proposed improvements to Interstate 81.
“They want it fixed. They want it fixed now. They are willing to pay for it. They are willing to hold legislatures accountable,” said Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.
“The Department of Transportation did an excellent job of identifying the problems, they held dozens of meetings and hundreds (of people) were heard from which resulted in a strong work product,” Southard said. “We favor the $2 billion package but we feel it is up to legislators and people to decide how to pay for it. That’s a policy decision for legislators.”
The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance represents more than 300 companies and is associated with transportation construction industries in Virginia.
The group completed a survey among 500 registered voters in the corridor, including 200 interviews with cell phone respondents.
Key findings in the poll found:
Voters gave the current interstate an overall average score of D+, with 18 percent giving it an F.
88 percent of voters favor the immediate $2 billion investment to make the needed improvements.
“That is a strong consensus that I-81 needs improvement,” said Glen Bolger, a researcher for Public Opinion Strategies.
The desire to fund the project is nonpartisan, according to the poll results, with 89 percent of respondents who identified as Republican, 80 percent who identified as an independent and 92 percent who identified as Democrat supportive of funding extensive improvements.
The most popular funding source would be a toll on freight trucks but a majority of people still favored funding the project when it meant a tax that would impact them, Bolger said.
69 percent of respondents wanted the General Assembly to approve an interstate improvement plan in 2019.
75 percent, or three-quarters of voters polled, would be more likely to back a state legislator who supports funding for I-81 improvements, Bolger said.
The findings of the poll were sent to state legislators.
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, said in an email that he has not seen those findings yet.