I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan

Kimley-Horn assisted the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation in developing a study that resulted in a corridor improvement plan for Interstate 81 (I-81) in Virginia.

Project Overview

As a critical north-south backbone of the East Coast’s freight network, the I-81 corridor is vital to the efficient movement of goods. Within Virginia, I-81 connects with five other interstates and traverses 21 cities and towns, 13 counties, and serves 25 colleges and universities between the Tennessee and West Virginia borders. Competing travel demands, high truck percentages, and rolling terrain result in a corridor plagued by significant safety and reliability issues. Unpredictable travel delays significantly impact both heavy commercial vehicle on-time performance and travel for passenger vehicles.

Traffic Study Leads to Data-Driven Improvement Plan

Kimley-Horn led a team of planners and engineers in conducting a study to identify segments of I-81 with safety and congestion issues. The resulting study included a range of recommendations from operational improvements focused on detecting and removing incidents to capital improvements that add capacity. The study also included strategies such as corridor-wide incident management improvements, truck parking recommendations, and estimated impacts to the economy and trucking industry from revenue-generating alternatives.

The study ultimately led to the development and delivery of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan including roadway concepts, risk-based cost estimates, and operations implementation plans. Kimley-Horn assisted with public involvement throughout the project, assisting with a 12 public input meetings and developing presentation materials that highlighted how the data was used to develop plan elements.

Innovative Application of New or Existing Techniques

One of the biggest challenges with this study was to determine how to accurately identify problem areas and design improvements that addressed those problem areas in the 325-mile corridor in only eight months. Kimley-Horn developed a unique and creative approach to identify the most critical performance measures, find hot spots for the performance measures, and develop improvements using a repeatable process to meet the aggressive time frame.

Following the analysis of multiple big datasets, the study team determined that over 50 percent of the delay in the corridor was caused by incidents (e.g., disabled vehicles, collisions, vehicle fires, etc.) was the most critical performance measure. The study team was able to determine a trend pertaining to the amount of delay caused by incidents blocking one lane of traffic. This delay was used to detect where freeway and arterial operations strategies should be deployed to make the biggest positive impact for travelers. Kimley-Horn, in coordination with the VDOT Operations Division and the districts, used this data to identify hot spots on the freeway and developed an operations and incident management plan that identified improvements on I-81 and parallel facilities. Using collision, delay, and incident data in combination with public comments to develop improvements at the most critical locations gave the study credibility to advance improvements to implementation.

Project Recognition