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I-81 Tier 2 NEPA Environmental Study

Christiansburg to north of Roanoke

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Project at a Glance

Begin Date
Fall 2012


Botetourt, Montgomery, and Roanoke


Caleb Parks


An environmental study for the 32-mile section of Interstate 81 (I-81) between exit 118 (Christiansburg) and exit 150 (Troutville) is currently underway. The study launched in fall 2012 for the section of I-81 between exit 118 and exit 143 (Roanoke), but VDOT expanded the study area to include another seven miles of I-81 between exit 143 (Roanoke) and exit 150 (Troutville) in April 2013.

Based on a 2003 agreement between VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to follow a tiered decision making process for the I-81 corridor, this study is the next required step before a widening project along this segment of I-81 can be designed and constructed.  The need for improvements along this portion of I-81 was identified in the broader Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the entire 325-mile I-81 corridor in Virginia that was completed in 2007.  

This Tier 2 Environmental Assessment (EA) will be conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires consideration and documentation of potential environmental consequences of proposed transportation improvements and making the information available for public comment before specific location and design decisions are made. 

VDOT anticipates making a draft of the EA available for public review and comment in spring 2016.


In accordance with NEPA, in the fall of 2003, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and VDOT launched an I-81 corridor improvement study.

In November 2003, VDOT and FHWA announced that the agencies had agreed to streamline the corridor improvement study by dividing it into two phases, or tiers.

VDOT completed the Tier 1 Final Environmental Statement (EIS) and received a Record of Decision (ROD) in 2007.

The Tier 1 study identified needs, developed solutions and evaluated potential impacts associated with conceptual-level improvements along the entire 325-mile I-81 corridor in Virginia. The Tier 1 study also divided I-81 into eight segments for further detailed analysis, which could be performed in Tier 2 studies.

Funding to complete the Tier 2 EA was provided in the July 1, 2012 update of VDOT's Six-Year Improvement Program.
VDOT launched the Tier 2 EA in fall 2012 for the section of I-81 between exit 118 (Christiansburg) and exit 143 (Roanoke). Based on a traffic analysis associated with the Tier 2 document in April 2013, VDOT then expanded the study area to include an additional seven miles of I-81 to the north between exit 143 and exit 150 (Troutville). 

After completion of a Tier 2 study, FHWA may authorize the use of federal funds for VDOT to begin designing construction plans for future improvements.

What will be included in the Tier 2 study?

The Tier 1 study provided a broad inventory of potential impacts of expanding all of I-81 in Virginia.  The Tier 2 study document will evaluate corridor conditions and the potential for impacts between Roanoke and Troutville, before detailed design and location decisions are made.

In addition, the Tier 2 study will:

• Inventory and assess potential impacts to human and natural resources, including traffic, wetlands, land use, historic sites, air, noise, and recreational facilities;

• Validate and update information from the Tier 1 FEIS (number of lanes needed, traffic);

• Examine a “corridor width” and appropriately sized “bubble” for interchanges; and

• Consider location of lanes (inside, outside, or combination) based on conditions along the study corridor.

Public Involvement

VDOT held two citizen information meetings for the Tier 2 EA of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Study in early February 2013 in Christiansburg and Salem. Based on traffic data, the study was extended north an additional seven miles to exit 150 (Route 220) in Botetourt County. 

In June 2013, VDOT held an additional citizen information meeting to gather public input on an environmental study being conducted for the section of I-81 between exit 118 (Christiansburg) and exit 150 (Botetourt County).

The meetings were intended to provide an opportunity for citizens and organizations to give VDOT comments or suggestions on the proposed project and the scope of issues to be addressed in the environmental study.

Following the completion of the Draft EA, a public hearing will be held on the study’s findings and recommendations, which is currently projected for spring 2016. The hearing time, date and location will be advertised on VDOT’s website and in Salem District newspapers a minimum of 30 days in advance.

Meeting materials from the citizen information meetings held in February 2013:

Meeting materials from the citizen information meeting held in June 2013 in Botetourt County:


House Bill 2

This project will be scored under the ongoing statewide project prioritization process as outlined in House Bill Two (HB-2). 

Click here for more information on the prioritization process.

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Page last modified: Feb. 23, 2016