Highway money for I-81: is it coming this way?

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — This is an important week on Capitol Hill for moving the federal infrastructure dollars, and motorists in the DMV region have a lot riding on what Congress decides.

The 12-mile stretch of Interstate 81 in Maryland connecting Pennsylvania and West Virginia can be a traffic challenge at times, which is why regional planners have been busy trying to secure federal dollars to widen the highway. Take motorists like Mike Downey and his wife — New Jersey natives who travel the north-south corridor to Florida, where they have a vacation home.

“We’ve been back and forth on 81 north and south a dozen times in the past couple years, and it’s by far the best road,” Downey said.

Opinions on I-81 differ depending on who you ask; while these vacationing motorists say 81 is far preferable to I-95, the north-south interstate running parallel to 81 along the Atlantic seaboard, others find the traffic an issue.

David Decker lives in western New York State and says I-81 suits him just fine.

“We travel this highway still about three times a year, and it’s gotten a lot busier than it used to be and a lot is the added truck traffic,” Decker said.

Local officials like the Hagerstown-eastern panhandle metropolitan planning organization are working with allies in the nation’s capital to secure funds for highway safety. They are especially concerned about the more than 19,000 trucks a day that traverse I-81 in our region, a number that is expected to reach 30,000 a day in the next 25 years.

Negotiators on Capitol Hill are meeting this very week to decide what to do with the highway money. Local officials have been working with Maryland Congressman David Trone, who has secured U.S. Department of Transportation grants for I-81 to be included in the federal infrastructure bill.

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