News and Views

VBT : Hampton Roads and NOVA Speed Ahead with Transportation Projects

While much of Virginia is looking for ways to balance the budgets with enough money to maintain and improve transportation infrastructure, two of the state’s most congested regions are getting ahead thanks to their funding plans. In 2013, the Virginia legislature passed house bill 2313 which included increases in sales tax in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, allocating those funds for transportation improvements. Then, during the 2018 General Assembly, the legislature passed a bill setting a gas tax floor in both areas to increase transportation funds further. 

The new gas tax floor will establish a set level for the tax, so that funds aren’t drastically diminished when gas prices are low. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “the floor would generate an additional $45.2 million for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, including $18.6 million for a proposed contribution to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority for long-term repairs to the Metro transit system, and $8.6 million for the Virginia Railway Express commuter service in the region.” 

In Hampton Roads, the gas tax would generate $21.9 million for the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, “which uses the regional taxes collected under the 2013 law to help pay for major projects in the region,” says the Times-Dispatch. 

The regions are already seeing an uptick in transportation projects. Last month, Inside NOVA reported that Northern Virginia’s regional transportation board has agreed to a six-year plan totaling more than $1.2 billion. That plan will fund 44 projects in the area from 2018 to 2023 and should help ease congestion in and around Prince William County. 

Other “megaprojects” on the Northern Virginia wish list include widening I-66 eastbound—adding an additional travel lane from the Dulles Connector Road to Exit 71, extending the Express Lanes on Interstate 395, and making multimodal improvements on I-66 (both inside and outside the Beltway). 

Projects in Hampton Roads will also help reduce congestion, as well as create more efficient transportation opportunities for both residents and the large number of goods coming into the state through the Port of Virginia. Some of these include expanding the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (where traffic exceeds 100,000 vehicles per day during peak summer traffic), widening I-64, and replacing or improving several area bridges.  

These two regions are proof that having a dedicated transportation funding solution at the local level is an effective way to jumpstart change for Virginia’s struggling infrastructure. We hope that other regions will see the activity generated by this new gas tax floor and seek similar solutions as well. 

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