The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) today approved a six-year, regional transportation program for metropolitan Washington that does not include a number of highway and transit projects for traffic-congested Northern Virginia. Last week’s conclusion of the Virginia Legislature’s Special Session without a transportation funding agreement forced the TPB to delay or drop the initiatives. Plans for the purchase of additional locomotives for the Virginia Railway Express and road-widening construction projects in Prince William County were among those affected.
The TPB approved the regional program today to stay on schedule with federal guidelines, so the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia will be eligible for funding in the fall. Arlington Board Member Chris Zimmerman said area officials would try using local funding sources to get some of the projects back on track, but that those efforts would only make up for a fraction of the amount needed. The projects dropped from the region’s six-year program depended on the plan to levy taxes through the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), which was declared unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court in February 2008.
On a separate issue, TPB Board Members were briefed by a representative of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission on the current condition and future needs of the nation’s transportation system. Commissioner Tom Skancke emphasized the shortage of revenue for transportation improvements due to the inadequacy of the current federal gas tax and said that the Commission recommends a significant increase in the rate. The Commission also recommends a streamlining of the transportation planning and environmental processes, which often delay construction of new infrastructure. Current federal transportation legislation is due to expire next year, and Stancke told area leaders on the TPB to urge their members of Congress not to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs in their current form. He encouraged them to instead call for a more efficient and better-funded federal transportation program.
Event documents can be found by clicking here.
For a full list of affected projects, ITEM 7 - Action (pages 16-17)
For the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission presentation and agenda items (see ITEM 12 Presentation)