Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Much New Transportation Money Is Actually Coming?

Now that a transportation funding bill has passed, constituents have been asking me about funding new road improvements.  However, there's really not as much money as people think. 

In Virginia, all roads are state roads.  Roads are divided into interstates, primary roads and secondary roads.  Primary roads are under 600 - U.S. 1, Mt. Vernon Highway, Telegraph Road.  Secondary roads are numbered 600 and higher - like Fort Hunt Road, Sherwood Hall Lane, residential streets, etc.

Secondary road money comes from the state but is prioritized by the Counties.  For the last two years, Fairfax County has effectively received $0 from the state to make any improvements for secondary roads.  This has halted all widenings, speed bumps, sidewalk construction, turn lanes, new stop lights - everything.

The transportation legislation passed last session added new money into the transportation system for the first time in 27 years.  Much of the new money is going to plug the maintenance shortfall - paving, bridgework, etc.  Plus, $300 million goes to the Silver Line off the top. 

One reason I voted against the bill was because I said it was not enough money to solve the needs in the 44th District or the entire state.  In reality, it's only about 20% of the total projected statewide shortfall over the next 20 years.

Last week, a constituent asked me to follow up on some turn lanes on Fort Hunt Road at Paul Spring Parkway.  I asked VDOT for an estimate of Fairfax County's estimated secondary road allocation after passage of the new legislation to get an idea of available money.  Here is their estimate:
VDOT Estimate of Fairfax County Secondary Road Allocation
FY14    $ 4,568
FY15    $ 37,323
FY16    $ 56,242
FY17    $3,973,929
FY18    $4,889,283
FY19    $5,850,825
Total   $14,812,170
These numbers are not in thousands - that means $4,568 for all of Fairfax County in FY14.  Fourteen million dollars over six years is peanuts - it's equal to $1.6 million per Fairfax County supervisor or about $266,000 per Supervisor per year, and yes it's $507 per Fairfax County Supervisor in FY14.  I'm sure each Supervisor is figuring out right now how to spend their $507 a year from now....

In all fairness, the legislation also contained a special 0.7% Northern Virginia sales tax, a 3% hotel tax, and a tax when you sell your house (about $1,250 for a $500,000 house).  Those monies will go to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) which is starting to prioritize projects.  You can see their project list here

Most of these are major projects.  Some U.S. 1 improvements are on the list (new intersection at Fort Hunt Road and eight lanes from VA235 to I-495) (See Page 9).  However, Blue and Orange Line extensions are on the list - a Yellow Line extension is not.  Widening U.S. 1 between Woodlawn and Buckman Road is not on the list.  None of these NVTA monies will be programmed for smaller fixes like minor intersection improvements. 

While I plan to fight as hard as I can for our share, but much of this new money is already largely spoken for and much of it is not heading to this part of the County unless something changes.  I will continue to fight to change that, but anyone who knows the history of this area knows it is going to be a tough fight.

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