… was one of the highlights of yesterday’s regional transportation conference sponsored by the Northern Virginia Transportation Association.
The conference featured speakers from WMATA, VDOT, VRE and Dulles Rail. They gave a laundry list of projects, costs involved and completion dates (e.g. the HOT lanes will be open for business on December 22nd).
The also outlined a number of current challenges. For example, the Virginia Railway Express now carries 5 million trips per year, or twice its original goal. It’s operating at 90% capacity. Do we expand the service? Or keep it as is?
The biggest challenge for VDOT is the lack of state revenue. As a result, nearly all funds collected for “new construction” are being transferred over for highway maintenance. This transfer in FY 2012 was $363M. Pretty soon there will be no state money for new construction, except the bare minimum to bring in Federal matching funds. As the VDOT Commissioner admitted, “we are now a maintenance organization.”
Speaking of Federal funds, if it wasn’t for the “stimulus” and other Federal grants, there would be no new construction to talk about. Nearly every project in northern Virginia (Fairfax County Parkway completion, I-66 repaving, Gallows Road improvement) has been done with Federal funds, allocated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
I’ve written many long articles on how the current system of fuels taxes — based on a 1980′s formula written before break-through gains in fuel efficiency – woefully underfunds the needs of this community. Again, the generosity of the Feds (financed by deficit spending) has driven new construction in our area over the past ten years. That can’t last forever. Nor should it.
I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here. So much time has been wasted. If we had switched our fuels tax to a percentage back in 2004 (an idea I actually proposed), we could have avoided the current morass.
The Governor will have one last session to step up and do something.