Virginia House approves overhauling road funding formula, P3 process

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, February 12, 2015

A two-bill package halfway through the Virginia statehouse would reform state laws that cover the state’s transportation funding formula and public-private partnerships, or P3s.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the changes called for by Gov. Terry McAuliffe would “improve reliability in how funds are distributed” and “restore integrity” to the state’s P3 process.

The state funding formula now allows $500 million in transportation revenue to be used for high-priority state projects. Forty percent of the amount left is used for primary roads, 30 percent is applied to secondary roads, and 30 percent goes to urban systems.

The House voted 96-2 to advance one bill to the Senate that would overhaul how the state allocates transportation revenue. Starting in 2021, HB1887 would route 40 percent of funding for bridge and pavement fixes, 30 percent would be spent on projects deemed to be of statewide importance, and 30 percent would be used for local projects.

The governor said the bill would increase transparency and send more money back to localities.

“The bill greatly simplifies the myriad of rules governing the distribution of transportation funding, which will make funding more reliable and consistent,” McAuliffe said in prepared remarks.

A second House-approved bill is intended to reduce the public’s financial risk when private investors are brought in to do road and bridge work. HB1886 was approved on the House floor with unanimous consent.

The bill addresses concern about projects such as the planned high-speed toll expressway along U.S. 460 in southeastern Virginia. The project cost the state $300 million, but the road hasn’t received federal clearance and isn’t under construction.

The Virginia Department of Transportation would be required to analyze a proposed P3 from a public interest standpoint before signing off on it. State lawmakers would also be on a steering committee that determines whether a project should move forward as a P3 project.

McAuliffe said the changes would reform the process and minimize the risk to taxpayers while setting clear lines of accountability.

HB1886 and HB1887 await further consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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