Friday, February 1, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus Concerns on Transportation Proposals

For Immediate Release                                                                                         Contact:  Lisa Guthrie; Executive Director

January 30, 2013                                                                                           (804) 240-1976;

Virginia Progressive Caucus Outlines Concerns on Transportation Funding Proposals

Today leaders in the legislative Virginia Progressive Caucus spoke out on transportation funding proposals on a number of concerns that stem from the source of the new revenue and the missing pieces on spending priorities. 

Caucus Co-chairman, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-HD 47), raised several points.  "While much has been said about the amount of revenue that HB 2213/SB 1355 would generate, there has been little attention paid to requiring better accountability on how the funds improve mobility.  New funding needs to be accompanied by fundamental reform of VDOT and its project planning processes in order to solve the Commonwealth's transportation crisis."

HB 2213/SB 1355 does advance several positive steps for transit and rail – most notably the establishment of a small dedicated, sustainable funding source for passenger rail that is required to sustain federal funding for intercity service.  However, since 2010, the General Assembly has accelerated appropriations of nearly $4 billion in funds – including $3 billion in bonded funds – to finance major transportation projects that often fail to address the core congestion problems of the state.  Northern Virginia alone needs at least $1 billion a year to address its dire transportation needs.

Most prominent among misdirected priorities is Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg which would cost over $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds plus tolls.  The current Route 460 carries just 11,000 trips per day.  "The new US 460 Bypass is estimated to support  5500 trips per day.  "Traffic studies for a new Costco on Rt. 1 in Fairfax County show that the store would create as many trips as this 1.5 billion dollar road" said Delegate Scott Surovell.  Without assurances that substantial funding will go to local transportation projects, our communities' needs will go unmet.

Despite the major injection in revenue, little progress has been made to resolve long-term problems.  The General Assembly should review the return on investments in transportation to date.  Improved project selection, with greater transparency and General Assembly oversight, will avoid funds being wasted on projects that do little to alleviate congestion in Virginia's most troubled transportation districts.

Caucus member Delegate Scott Surovell (D-HD 44), cautions that HB 2313's grab of existing General Fund resources could underfund current General Fund programs by $49 million in FY 2014 and as much as $283 million in FY 2018.  A better alternative, in addition to adjusting or indexing the gas tax to inflation, would include the elimination of reliance on funding from General Fund programs.  Delegate Surovell states, "Eliminating the statewide tax on gasoline is bad economics and bad transportation policy.  It cuts the sensible tie between transportation use and funding, forcing Virginians who drive less to subsidize those who drive more, hurting seniors and low-income individuals, carpoolers, transit users, and those who live closer to their jobs."

                Senator Adam Ebbin, Caucus co-chair, adds, "We should retain and even increase the gas tax so we can share the costs of transportation improvements with vehicles passing through Virginia from out of state.  To force Virginians, even those who don't drive, to cover the costs alone is shortsighted.  There is evidence from other states that taxpayers will likely only see a partial reduction in gas prices." Estimates show that 30% of cars on interstates are from out of state and traveling through Virginia on our highways.

"The Governor's plan only funds about 10-15% of our present long-term transportation funding shortfall," said Delegate Scott Surovell.

The Virginia Progressive Caucus emphasizes that reforms and revenue are both needed to address Virginia's serious transportation crisis.



Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus