The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has approved two low-interest Transportation Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Act (TIFIA) loans to help finance elements of Virginia’s $2.7-billion program to upgrade its stretch of Interstate-81—a busy truck route—in the western part of the state.

The TIFIA loans, which U.S. DOT announced on Dec. 12, total $97.6 million and will cover a portion of the estimated $263-million cost of a dozen individual projects, according to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation.

The loans' recipient is the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board, VDOT's governing body.

Ken Slack, a VDOT spokesman, said that all of the projects are under construction or have been completed.

The larger of the two TIFIA loans is valued at up to $83 million will help finance a $232.7-million project to add a lane in each direction in Roanoke County.

The smaller TIFIA loan, of up to $15 million, falls under the Rural Project Initiative of U.S. DOT’s Build America Bureau, which administers TIFIA and other financial-aid programs.

The rural loan will go toward 11 separate projects, totaling $30.7 million, which are located in seven counties and two other jurisdictions, according to a VDOT briefing document.

The largest of the 11 items is a $10-million design-build project to extend an acceleration lane in Smyth County.

Dave Covington, I-81 program delivery director for VDOT, said in an email statement that the program “focuses on improving safety, reducing congestion and helping foster economic growth along the 325-mile corridor.”

Covington added, “TIFIA loans help us accelerate projects so motorists and other stakeholders will reap those benefits more quickly.”

Since TIFIA was created in the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21. U.S. DOT has closed $39.7 billion in TIFIA loans and other financings, which have supported more than $132.9 billion in infrastructure investment, the department says.