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VA Governor releases transportation plan

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced on Friday details of his 2012 General Assembly session transportation plan, which he said will provide additional funding for maintaining Virginia’s infrastructure and will continue the administration’s efforts to ensure greater accountability and transparency in Virginia’s transportation entities while delivering transportation projects more quickly and cost effectively.

“Last year, working across party lines, we took a significant step forward in addressing Virginia’s long-neglected transportation system by implementing reforms to transportation agencies and by accelerating projects and bond funding that had languished in bureaucracy. Collectively, we put the most new funding into transportation in a generation,” said McDonnell.

“This session, we must take the necessary steps to build off of last year’s historic efforts, provide additional new funding for maintenance and construction, and continue reforming our transportation agencies to deliver projects and services more efficiently. Virginia simply cannot remain a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not continue to address our transportation challenges. That is why this year’s transportation package will dedicate additional funding to transportation and will help spur our economic recovery through job creation, forward-thinking investments and promoting our transportation assets.”

At the 2011 Governor’s Transportation Conference in Norfolk in December, Governor McDonnell called for changes in laws governing the allocation of future surpluses to transportation, dedicating portions of revenue growth attributable to transportation infrastructure projects to transportation, phasing in an additional dedication of .25 percent of the sales tax to transportation over the next eight years, establishing an Interstate 85 Connector Economic Development and Promotion Zone to encourage businesses to invest in Virginia and ship through Virginia ports, and advancing Virginia’s commercial space flight programs.

The governor added to those 2012 proposals by putting forward new initiatives to:
· Authorize the creation of the Virginia Toll Road Authority to construct, maintain and operate toll road facilities throughout the Commonwealth. Toll facilities currently operated by VDOT could be transferred to the authority, and the authority will provide another option for constructing major infrastructure projects without ceding complete control to a non-state partner.

· Authorize the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to sell naming rights for the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure. Private entities would be able to place their name on highways, interchanges, bridges and other infrastructure for an annual fee, which would go to the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund to support maintenance. The CTB will establish rules, fees, and revenue projections for this program at a later date.

· Enhance the Barge and Rail Use, International Trade Facility, and Port Volume Increase Tax Credits adopted during the 2011 General Assembly to make Virginia’s port more competitive versus its competitors.

· Reform the Virginia Port Authority board of commissioners to ensure that the most experienced and qualified Virginians can serve on the board.

· Increase Virginia’s representation on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors to bring conformity with recently enacted federal legislation and ensure that Virginia taxpayers are fairly represented on the board.

· Codify Virginia’s seat on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board of directors and implement qualifications-based requirements on appointees to the board to ensure effective governance and safety of the WMATA transit system. The qualifications-based requirements are the recommendation of the Governance Work Group comprised of governors McDonnell and O’Malley and Mayor Gray.

“Without an adequate transportation system, almost every aspect of our daily lives and government are negatively impacted,” said McDonnell. “Therefore, we must get serious and start treating transportation like a core function of government. That is why I am proposing to increase transportation’s share of the sales and use tax revenues from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent over the next eight years. My budget begins the process by dedicating an additional $110 million — only one-eighth of one percent of the total budget — to transportation over the course of the biennium.

“I am also proposing to increase transportation’s share of general fund surpluses to 75 percent and dedicate 1 percent of revenue growth above 5 percent to transportation. We will also expand the revenue sharing program to include maintenance, furthering our efforts to better leverage available revenues to meet Virginia’s growing transportation maintenance needs. We cannot provide additional funding without ensuring that our transportation organizations are accountable to our citizens and deliver projects in a safe, transparent and cost-effective manner. That is why my package will also include changes to continue our efforts to reform MWAA and WMATA.”

Speaking about the announcement, Del. Scott Lingamfelter said, “For years we have struggled with solutions to our transportation challenges. I applaud Gov. McDonnell for recognizing these challenges and putting forward a common-sense package that will address our maintenance deficits and provide further tools to our transportation agencies to advance critical projects.

“MWAA and WMATA serve thousands of Virginians each year,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon. “We must ensure that they are properly managed, transparent and accountable to our citizens. Two additional Virginia appointees on the MWAA board of directors will ensure that Virginia’s interests are represented, and requiring appointees to the WMATA board of directors to have transportation, transit, or other relevant experience will help WMATA better address governance and safety concerns and avoid cost increases.”

“Whether it’s funding to maintain our roads, incentives for transportation-related businesses, or reforming our transportation agencies, we must continue to improve our transportation infrastructure and assets,” said State Sen. Frank Wagner. “Virginia is ripe with opportunities, but to realize them and continue our record on economic development and job creation, we must address our transportation challenges.”
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