State and Regional Transportation Funding
(Updated March 2014)
Funding highways and transit is a core state responsibility. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has a responsibility to invest regional transportation funds on highway and transit projects of greatest regional significance.
Passage of HB 2313 in 2013 means that over the next six years Virginia will have about $3.5 billion in new state funds and Hampton Roads ($1.3 billion) and Northern Virginia ($1.9 billion) will have new regional funds that they didn’t have before.
The challenge is two-fold
- First, to ensure that new (and existing) state and regional funds are invested wisely.
- Second, to recognize that new funding is only the first installment. State and local officials must not lose sight of the fact ultimately more funding will be needed. While these new funds will most definitely make a difference, maintenance and construction backlogs are huge and beyond the ability of this new infusion of funds to address. To secure new funding in the future, the state and regions must invest wisely today.
Northern Virginia - The Importance of Choosing Wisely
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is currently assembling a package of highway and transit projects for FY 2015 to FY 2016 regional transportation funding.
HB 599 enacted in 2012 required that highway and transit projects be evaluated for their ability to reduce daily congestion and to improve regional mobility during a homeland security incident. However, HB 2313 was amended in conference to excuse transit projects from the rating process.
VDOT is currently developing the necessary software to evaluate highway and transit projects on their ability to reduce congestion and improve homeland security evacuation. However, the Authority is hiding behind the letter of the current law, ignoring the intent of HB 599 and balking at the notion that potential transit investments demonstrate an ability to actually reduce congestion.
The rankings are not binding and the Authority is free to select any project regardless of its congestion-reduction potential or regional significance.
The Alliance believes this highway-transit double standard needs to be changed. In the meantime, the Alliance believes that an entity such as the Authority seeking to build public confidence that public tax dollars are being wisely invested should test both highway and transit projects for congestion-reduction potential. In this case adhering to the “letter of the law’ is not enough.
To see a list of projects currently being considered for evaluation and eligibility for FY 2015-FY 2016 regional funding, click here.
State Level Outlook
Enactment of HB 2313 provided a much needed, long overdue infusion of maintenance and construction dollars. As a result –
- Virginia’s $33.2 billion Six-Year Transportation Financial Plan (FY 2014-FY 2019) is 24% larger than the previous plan (FY 2013 to FY 2018)
- For the first time in many years state sales tax revenues have replaced federal revenues as the single largest source of revenues. (This is particularly important given the federal highway program’s uncertain future.)
- FY 2014 Commonwealth Transportation Fund revenues are 11% higher than FY 2013.
For more informationon Virginia’s Six-Year Transportation Financial Plan and Budgets, click here.
Northern Virginia Regional Outlook
Since it’s formation in 2002 the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority had no regional funds at its disposal so it mattered not which projects it put in its regional plan. In the latest update (TransAction 2040) localities submitted over 200 highway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects for consideration for the REGIONAL plan. All were evaluated and accepted as being regionally significant.
Passage of HB 2313 means that the Authority is now responsible for investing $300 million annually. (Note: Actually, under HB 2313, 30% of these funds are distributed to each of the Authority’s 9 member jurisdictions in proportion to the amount of regional revenue collected within each jurisdiction. The 70%-30% split is another example of how politics continue to play a major role in transportation in Northern Virginia. Transportation needs are not proportional to individual jurisdictions. That split combined with the fact that by law over time each jurisdiction is required to receive back transportation benefits equal to the amount that it contributes in regional funds makes it even more difficult to address major regional needs. In contrast, in Hampton Roads all regional funds go into one regional pot dedicated to regional significant investments.)
The extent to which the Authority is able to focus on projects of greatest regional significance as opposed to local needs remains to be seen.
The Authority’s initial attempt to assemble a package of highway and transit projects for FY 2014 pay-as-you-go and bond funds produced mixed results. A number of the local-government-recommended candidates for regional transportation dollars included local bus shelters, buses, and trail lighting. Some where ultimately eliminated, others made the final cut.
For more information on projects selected for FY 2014 regional funding and the Authority, click here.
Highway and Transit: Different Standards Apply
New Historic State and Regional Transportation Funding
What You Need to Know about Transportation
Commonwealth Transportation Fund (Transportation Revenues and Allocations)
What different funding options generate
VDOT Budget FY 2013
Commonwealth Transportation Fund Six-Year Financial Plan (FY2014-FY2019)