WJTV News Channel 12 - Major upgrade coming to Bristol's Exit 7 on I-81

Major upgrade coming to Bristol's Exit 7 on I-81

Cars wait in line at Interstate 81 's Exit 7 in Bristol, Virginia.  Soon, VDOT will start expanding the intersection. Cars wait in line at Interstate 81 's Exit 7 in Bristol, Virginia. Soon, VDOT will start expanding the intersection.
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BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) - It's one of the Tri-Cities' busiest intersections with an estimated 18,600 cars rolling through it daily.

Exit 7 on Interstate 81 in Bristol, Virginia is known for its rush-hour traffic trouble.

Now, the Virginia Department of Transportation is about to roll out a plan to improve traffic flow at the north Bristol hub for restaurants and retailers.

"We do see a lot of congestion on the weekends with people using all the restaurants and the movie theater and other facilities along Exit 7," said Michelle Earl, Spokeswoman for VDOT.

In mid-March, VDOT says crews will begin a multi-phase project which includes:

- Right turn lanes on Old Airport Road for the northbound and southbound I-81 on-ramps

- Widening Old Airport Road approximately twelve feet under the I-81 bridges, providing space for two lanes southbound and northbound and a left turn lane

- Widening of the bridge over Beaver Creek to the west side creating better traffic flow from Linden Drive to the I-81 southbound on-ramp

- Dual left turn lanes on the northbound I-81 off-ramp.

Good news for restaurant owners and emergency workers in the area.

"It would help a lot," said Washington County, Virginia Assistant Fire Chief, Lynn Hall,"traffic would at least have a place to get away from us so we would have an open clear lane to drive through."

Exit 7 is also the home to dozens of restaurants. They say if traffic moves freely, then more people can make their way to their doors.

"It's sure to help our business that's one of our main concerns, that the traffic affects our business here," said Michelle Mason, Assistant Manager at the I-Hop off of Exit 7.
VDOT will spend $3.4 million to make the Exit 7 upgrades.

Work will continue through 2015.

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