Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced on Tuesday that he will recommend over $2 billion of funding — new money projected to come from his controversial overhaul of the commonwealth’s gas and sales taxes — for hundreds of specific transportation projects statewide.
The long term transportation plan, called “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” would provide the Virginia Department of Transportation with about $1.28 billion in new state funding for 158 highway projects and another $1.07 billion for rail and transit projects. Some of that money is recommended for bond-financed projects like the Dulles Metrorail Silver Line extension, which would get $300 million over the next three years under McDonnell’s plan.
Also receiving some of the money would be passenger rail service around the state, as well as highway and bridge maintenance that are sometimes funded by general obligation or Garvees, grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds.
“The recommended list of transportation infrastructure projects represents a significant down payment on Virginia’s transportation future,” McDonnell said. “Every corner of the commonwealth will reap the benefits of safer roads, quicker commutes and increased access to public transportation if this plan is adopted.”
That down payment would have to come from the passage of McDonnell’s unique overhaul of his state’s transportation funding formula. Under McDonnell’s plan, unveiled earlier this month, Virginia would become the first state to entirely abolish its per-gallon gas tax. McDonnell wants to increase the commonwealth’s general sales and use tax and dedicate that extra revenue, projected at over $3 billion over the next five years, to transportation.
That funding plan, blasted by the nonpartisan Washington-based Tax Foundation for being non-user based, has won support from dozens of groups such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, and the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.
The governor has said a major overhaul is necessary because increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles and rising emissions standards will continue to limit the power of a per-gallon gas tax. Though the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials did not endorse McDonnell’s plan, preferring to let each state make its policy, the group’s executive director said last week that the federal per-gallon gas tax should be replaced with a gas sales tax.
A McDonnell spokesman said the new money would come only from the revenue increases created by McDonnell’s transportation policy, and would not be raised by issuing new debt. However, like McDonnell’s plan to toll Interstate 95, the new revenue could free up resources for other uses, including bond financing.
Funding for these projects would be in addition to the money provided for in the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s six-year improvement program. The governor will recommend the board advance these projects once his proposal passes the General Assembly, his office declared in a release.