A bitter battle over transportation funding in Virginia ended Thursday,
Sept. 28, after lawmakers wrapped up their special session without reaching an
agreement on a long-term solution. Among the efforts that failed to gain
approval was a legislative package to address safety and ease congestion along
The breakdown in talks for how to come up with about $1 billion a year
in additional revenue for roads, bridges and tunnels fell along the same lines
as what led to this year’s budget impasse that dragged out the regular session.
Problems stem from Republican leaders in the House and Senate who
haven’t been able to reach agreement on funding sources. Senate leaders say new
revenue – including a fuel tax increase – is needed to address congestion and
maintenance costs, while House leaders are vehemently opposed to higher taxes
The final straw came Wednesday, Sept. 29, when a Senate panel rejected
the bulk of a $2.4 billion House transportation plan that relied heavily on
debt and existing revenues that otherwise would be earmarked for schools,
health care and other services, The
Associated Press reported.
Sponsored by Delegate Ben Cline, R-Amherst, the I-81 package included
legislation to widen some segments of the interstate, increase the number of
state troopers patrolling the corridor, and promote rail improvements to divert
some freight now being hauled by trucks.
The first bill – HB5073 – would have tapped private groups to speed
construction of limited third lanes for truck climbing on steep stretches along
I-81. The bill also would have halted VDOT from considering a proposal from a
road builders’ consortium, dubbed Star Solutions, to add two separate truck-only
toll lanes in both directions to run the length of the roadway in the state.
Another bill – HB5074 – required the Virginia State Police to add 10
additional troopers to patrol the corridor. Another 20 would have patrolled
Interstates 64 and 95.
One other bill – HB5075 – would have provided tax credits for rail
companies that improve their lines for intermodal freight transport.
Each of Cline’s bills remained in a House committee at the deadline to
advance from the chamber to the Senate.
These and other efforts to come up with funding for transportation
projects will have to wait until next year during the regular session that
begins in January.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative