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The Free Lance-Star : VDOT officials paint bleak picture of future transportation funding at Culpeper meeting

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne was quick to explain why the Interstate 95 southbound crossing over the Rappahannock River is being funded while the northbound side of the project is not.

“We don’t have the money,” Layne told those who attended a Smart Scale town hall meeting in Culpeper on Monday.

And Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick was just as decisive in defending the reasoning for selecting the southbound side for additional roads and bridges to help handle the heavy traffic load.

“That stretch of road gets much more congested during the evening traffic rush than the northbound lanes do during the morning rush,” Kilpatrick said.

The commissioner was quick to add that the northbound crossing will eventually be expanded, but could not predict when. Like Layne, Kilpatrick said it would depend on when the construction funds became available.  

Although Monday’s meeting was well attended, there were few questions from county officials or residents, not only because there will be no Smart Scale funding to be allocated next year (the program converts to two-year cycles after the current fiscal year) and also because this will be the last meeting before Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s term ends and a new administration takes office.

One statement that did cause a response was Department of Rail and Public Transportation Chief Financial Officer Steve Pittard’s declaration that unless some legislative action is taken, about 40 percent of funding would be cut from transit funding next year.

“I urge you not to take funding from rural transit,” said Orange County Supervisor Jim Crozier.

Layne agreed that cutting funding would hurt rural transit systems far more than those in urban areas.
“Larger localities have more resources to deal with this problem than do rural communities,” Layne said.

Funding will be cut because a bond program has lapsed, Layne added.

“Funding public transit will be a significant issue for the new administration,” he said.

Culpeper has two transit systems, one for the town and one for the county.

As for action from the General Assembly to restore funds, Layne said that it has been his experience that “politicians will not make a decision until forced.”

Pittard also said he could offer no timeline as to when new train service between Washington and Lynchburg will be up and running. The delay, he said, is being caused because of negotiations between Amtrak and the Norfolk Southern/CSX Railroad, which owns the tracks.

The Northeast Regional, which leaves Lynchburg each morning and returns each evening, has been one of the most successful routes in the Amtrak system. A new return route would arrive in Lynchburg each morning and return to Washington each afternoon.

Pittard did say that the route would be extended from Lynchburg to Roanoke at the end of October.

Read the full story from The Free Lance-Star. 

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