The Virginia Department of Transportation has installed and activated 30 new digital message signs along Interstate 81. The signs are part of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program (CIP) to improve safety, increase reliability and foster economic growth along the 325-mile I-81 corridor.
The electronic display boards, also known as Changeable Message Signs, offer motorists vital information about traffic incidents, congestion, work zones and inclement weather.
“This is proven technology that helps travelers make informed decisions before they hit the road, or be able to alter their plans if conditions change,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich.
“Incidents are responsible for much of the congestion on this interstate,” added Dave Covington, I-81 Program Delivery Director. “The digital message signs are a cost-effective way to help drivers avoid some of those backups.”
Twenty-one of the new digital message signs are located on the interstate between mile marker 72 in Wythe County and mile marker 321 in Frederick County. Another nine signs are on roadways approaching I-81, offering information that can help motorists decide whether to merge onto the interstate. VDOT’s network of traffic operations centers provide messages for the message boards and continuously update them in real time.
The I-81 CIP originated from public input and a 2018 data-driven study. The $2 billion plan of focused improvements was approved in December 2018 by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. In 2019 the General Assembly approved funding and Governor Ralph Northam signed it into law. Information on I-81 CIP including interactive maps and timelines, and details about upcoming and current projects is on the Improve81.org website.
The digital message sign project is part of I-81 CIP operational improvements that include additional traffic cameras, flashing curve-warning signs, VDOT’s Towing and Recovery Incentive Program, and expanded Safety Service Patrol coverage. Dozens of arterial route improvements are currently under way and scheduled for completion by 2023.
In March 2020 the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded a $6,999,464.84 contract for the DMS project to Richardson-Wayland Electrical Co. LLC of Roanoke, Va. The project was completed on October 28, 2021.