Roads budget gets OK in Virginia

| Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Virginia General Assembly adjourned its 2005 session Feb. 27 after approving the largest increase in spending on transportation in two decades.

After a week of heated negotiations, the Senate approved the $848 million spending plan 39-0; the House passed it 92-1. It now heads to Gov. Mark Warner.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will determine where the money for road-building and mass transit goes, but members and state transportation officials said they would choose from a list of already agreed-upon projects.

At the top of the list are widening Interstate 95 south of the Springfield Mixing Bowl and Interstate 66 near Gainesville, The Washington Post reported. State officials said $13.5 million would guarantee that the I-95 project would begin in fall 2007 and the I-66 job in fall 2008, as planned.

Money intended for primary and secondary roads will be split among local jurisdictions.

The two-year budget includes $75 million to help localities across the state build their own road projects, part of an effort to encourage more local control of road building.

Twenty-three million dollars was earmarked for rail projects while $50 million will be used to finance public-private road projects.

Lawmakers also took steps toward addressing traffic concerns on I-81, approving $110,000 in overtime pay for state troopers patrolling the interstate. But lawmakers ignored the corridor when earmarking money to renovate rest areas.

Instead, $20 million was set aside to spruce up rest areas along I-95 and I-64, anticipating heavy traffic during the Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration in 2007.

The remaining money is divided among maintenance needs, debt payments and administrative costs.

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