Coalition aims to improve Interstate 81

November 03, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Officials from six states, including Maryland, have formed a coalition that will advocate for funding and improvements along Interstate 81.

The I-81 Corridor Coalition also hopes to create a Web site that can alert drivers about roadwork and delays along the road, said James F. Kercheval, a Washington County Commissioner who is a member of the coalition.

Kercheval, Washington County Director of Special Projects Gary W. Rohrer and Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Robert Gordon are the coalition's three Maryland representatives.

The coalition also includes members from New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The group recently convened in Carlisle, Pa., for a two-day conference where coalition members discussed the coalition's goals and structure.

Kercheval said the coalition's goals are two-pronged: To draw state and federal funding for improvements along I-81, and to serve as a resource for people who drive the road every day.


He said the coalition was the brainchild of Cumberland County, Pa., Commissioner Rick Rovegno, who worked to create the group because of a high number of traffic accidents in Cumberland County.

"He said for him, it is a matter of life and death," Kercheval said.

The coalition will model itself on a similar group created in the 1990s to advocate for funding and improvements along Interstate 95.

George Schoener, executive director of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, said that group has coordinated several projects along the interstate, including the EZ Pass system that allows drivers to pay tolls in multiple states automatically with the same technology.

"The biggest benefit to having a coalition is dealing with issues that aren't addressed by states themselves," Schoener said.

He noted that the I-81 Corridor Coalition's biggest issue will be managing and reducing truck traffic.

"You can't do that in just one state. You have to coordinate activities across all states," Schoener said.

Kercheval said one of the immediate goals of the I-81 coalition is to get the road listed on the federal government's high-priority corridors list or Corridors of the Future list.

Such a designation, Kercheval said, would help secure federal funding for I-81 road improvements.

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