VDOT launches program to speed up clearance of crashes on I-81

Interstate 81
Interstate 81(WWNY)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 3:03 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/VDOT Release) - The Virginia Department of Transportation is applying a new solution designed to help reduce the amount of time drivers sit in crash-related congestion.

Virginia’s Towing and Recovery Incentive Program (TRIP) is up and running on the Interstate 81 corridor.

“Virginia’s economy takes a hit of up to $1,200 for every minute that drivers spend in traffic,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “Incidents are the number-one cause of congestion on I-81, so we can make a real improvement on that interstate by getting lanes reopened more rapidly.”

81 TRIP is an incentive program that partners VDOT with heavy-duty towing and recovery companies to standardize the response to commercial vehicle crashes. The program is designed for “safe and quick clearance with improved towing standards, procedures and training.”

81 TRIP pays a $2,500 to $3,500 incentive to a tow company that opens a travel lane within 90 minutes of being told by police it’s okay to proceed.

VDOT says this program will help reduce lost-time costs, improve reliability and lessen the risk of secondary crashes that happen during backups. Those incidents account for 20% of all highway crashes, says VDOT, and become increasingly likely until congestion is cleared.

“Interstate 81 has a high percentage of trucks and rolling to mountainous terrain, which contributes to the highest incident-related delay among interstates in Virginia,” said I-81 Program Delivery Director Dave Covington. “We have seen success with towing incentives on interstates in the Richmond area since 2017, so we expect similar positive results on the I-81 corridor.”

Locally-based towing and recovery companies were invited to participate in 81 TRIP. To be eligible, they must meet requirements to ensure only well-trained operators with proper heavy-duty equipment are dispatched to large commercial vehicle incidents.

81 TRIP is a part of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2018. The more-than $2 billion package of targeted improvements was funded by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

Click here for more information about the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program, which is not to be confused with the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s Transit Ridership Incentive Program, which is also called TRIP.

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