How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Design Your Own Transportation Plan!

Transportation seems to be the hot topic this session.  The Governor has a plan, a few other delegates have popped out plans.  Lots of talk.

Given all of the various moving parts, things were getting fuzzy about exactly how much money was in play.  Earlier this week, I touched base with the some of the House's finance staff about the revenue generated by various options and came up with an interactive spreadsheet that allows you to game out various tax, fee and/or revenue proposals. 

After I made it available for public download, Taber Andrew Bain here in Richmond and Navid Oshan-Afshar over at The Tyson's Corner Blog set them up as full-on interactive do-it-yourself transportation calculators. 

You can build your own transportation funding plan here:


Some notes and a few disclaimers before you go play. 

The first question you have to answer is how big is our 20-year transportation funding shortfall.  The closest thing we have to an answer on this is VDOT's long-range "VTRANS" studies.  In 2004, the VTRANS 2025 report indicated that Virginia's 20-year transportation funding shortfall was $108 billion (See VTRANS 2025, Page 2 of Report Summary) or about $5 billion per year.  Given that we've only funded a few billion of projects since then (through borrowing), that number has only gone up.

VTRANS 2035 was a bit more opaque in terms of its bottom line.  However, if you total up the figures on page 7 of the Executive Summary, the 20-year transportation funding shortfall comes to somewhere between $95 and $120 billion ($5-6 billion per year) depending on what counts. 

Some people question these figures.  However, keep in mind just for example that widening U.S.1 in the 44th District is a $900 million project and extending Yellow Line to Lorton is probably $3-9 billion.  Once you add extensions to the Orange and Blue Lines, Hampton Roads Bridge crossings, widening I-95, I-64, I-81, U.S. 29, constructing I-73 and funding the $750 million/per year maintenance shortfall, funding intercity rail, or having any kind of high-speed rail discussion you get to $4-5 billion per year pretty quick. 

The revenue estimates in the calculator are rough estimates based on figures provided to me by the Finance Comimittee.  It's impossible to do a perfectly precise calculation on 20-year timeframes because the numbers vary over time - some go up, some plateau, some go down a bit, but I tried to use average numbers based on five year estimates. 

Either way, you can see for yourself what it will take to plug our hole and you can see that the plans under discussion do not come close to providing anything other than a short term band aid on the problem that has been created by 20 years of inaction. 

I'm interested to hear feedback!

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