Road, bridge funding efforts get creative

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/22/2013

A lack of available funds for transportation purposes has lawmakers in many states across the country looking for creative ways to get work done. Two lawmakers in Virginia and New Hampshire want gamblers to help foot the bill for needed road and bridge work.

In Virginia, a bill is intended as an alternative to tolls to pay for needed transportation work in Hampton Roads.

Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, introduced a bill that would authorize casinos to be opened in the Hampton Roads Transportation District. Voters would get the final say.

Tolls on the tunnels linking Norfolk and Portsmouth are scheduled to be imposed starting January 2014. Truckers and others are slated to pay for the drive for the next 60 years.

Initially, truck drivers will pay as much as $7.36 and motorists will pay up to $1.84.

Revenue will be used to pay for a second tube at the Midtown Tunnel, Downtown Tunnel renovation, and extension of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Lucas’ bill would provide an alternative to relying on road users to pay for the projects. SB714 would use income from licensing fees, admissions and wagering taxes to help pay for the three projects, as well as toll mitigation on Dominion Boulevard in Chesapeake.

The bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

One New Hampshire lawmaker is looking to legalize video slots to help pay for road fixes.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, is working on a bill to authorize video slot machines and table games in one casino. Revenue would be divided between highways and education.

A separate effort in Concord would establish a panel to decide whether to pursue the sale of naming rights for bridges, roads and other structures. Similar programs already are set up in Ohio and Virginia.

Supporters say that every little bit helps when there is a big hole in the highway budget.

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