Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Wednesday a potential solution to Virginia’s growing transportation funding problem, but cautioned those gathered at his Annual Transportation Conference in Tysons Corner he’ll need to get it through the General Assembly’s 2013 session first.
The governor’s proposed package, he said during a keynote appearance Wednesday, would eliminate the need to dip into construction money by 2019 and raise $500 million annually for new roads, bridges and transit projects.
How exactly remains to be seen: McDonnell gave few details about his proposal, saying he would reveal specifics in the coming weeks.
Maintenance takes priority to construction of new roads in Virginia, McDonnell said, and since 2002, approximately $3.3 billion of the Commonwealth’s construction money has gone to fix existing roads.
But McDonnell said his funding proposal would eliminate the need to take money for road maintenance from construction funds.
“It is now time to address our transportation funding challenges,” he said. “I don’t think we can wait any longer.”
Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, echoed McDonnell’s sentiments during an address to the conference’s 900 attendees.
“Virginia is facing a transportation funding crisis,” she said, one that threatens not just Fairfax County, but also the entire state.
Virginia has ranked first or second on CNBC's Best States for Business for the past few years, Bulova said, referencing a letter she and leaders from the Commonwealth’s Urban Crescent sent to Richmond in September. But in 2012, the state slipped to third and dropped from No. 10 to No. 33 in quality of transportation and infrastructure.
In Fairfax County, officials have been seeking a way to fill a $3 billion gap in transportation funds over the next decade. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation estimates it needs $8.1 billion from now until fiscal year 2021 but only anticipates $5.1 in revenues.
McDonnell and Bulova feared continued struggles with transportation money would damage the Virginia economy. International businesses are less likely to come to the Commonwealth if the infrastructure is sub-par, the governor said.
Huge successes, including the Metro’s Silver Line and High Occupancy Toll Lanes on I-95 and I-495, are examples of things that put Northern Virginia on the right track, they said. Officials also cited the reinvention of Tysons Corner as a prime example of where transportation can take Virginia’s development in the future.
“Tysons is a unique demonstration of all things transportation,” Bulova said.
And for the sake of Virginia’s economic future, McDonnell called on businesses to help support the package.
“It’s going to take a lot of help from the private sector,” he said. “Without the advocacy of the business community, no transportation funding package will pass the General Assembly.”