Virginia governor unveils more of transportation plan

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, January 23, 2012

Truckers traveling through Virginia could soon find themselves driving on such roadways as the Trailways Transportation portion of Interstate 95 and the Capital One Bridge instead of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced additional components of the transportation agenda for the 2012 regular session. Among the highlights that he is asking lawmakers to approve are plans to change how the state funds transportation and do so without a tax increase.

A portion of the Republican governor’s plan includes selling naming rights to transportation infrastructure. In exchange, private entities could slap their name on roads, bridges and interchanges.

Virginia would use the revenue to pay for road repairs. However, critics say the gimmick will not generate much cash for the state.

Another component of the governor’s plan is to create the Virginia Toll Road Authority. The group would build, maintain and operate toll roads throughout the state. Pay-to-play roads now operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation could also be transferred to the authority.

McDonnell said the authority would give the state another option to build toll roads without giving up complete control to private groups.

Other portions of McDonnell’s transportation agenda were revealed in early December. Plans include increasing how much money transportation collects from the state sales tax, annually directing the first 1 percent in revenue growth over 5 percent to transportation, and increasing transportation’s share of year-end surpluses to 75 percent.

He urged action on his agenda because transportation and economic development and prosperity are inextricably linked.

“Without an adequate transportation system, almost every aspect of our daily lives and government are negatively impacted,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Therefore, we must get serious and start treating transportation like a core function of government.”

Democrats at the statehouse say they are concerned about the governor’s plans to divert revenue from other budgets. They also say his plans do not do enough to address long-term funding needs.

Alternatives offered to fund transportation work include raising the state’s fuel tax, tying the tax rate to inflation, and adding a sales tax to fuel purchases.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia, click here.

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