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Richmond Not Likely to Help Transportation Funding Gap

State senator weighs in as Fairfax County kicks off public meetings about $3 billion shortfall.

Though state-level taxes are among the ways Fairfax County could help close a 10-year, $3 billion shortfall in transportation funding, Va. Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) said in a community outreach meeting Tuesday he wasn't confident help from Richmond was coming.

“It’s just very, very difficult in this climate in this country right now to raise taxes,” Marsden said.

The remarks came as Fairfax County officials kicked off a series of public outreach meetings Tuesday in Springfield to gather input on how to address the shortfall.

From now until fiscal year 2021, the county has $8.1 billion in needs but anticipates only $5.1 billion in revenues.

That gap leaves a $3 billion deficit over 10 years, or $300 million per year.

Tom Biesiadne, county department of transportation director, said road maintenance costs weren’t included in the calculations – if they had been, the county’s needs would total $360 million a year.

County supervisors and department of transportation officials have compiled 20 possible options to increase revenues that can go towards transportation projects. The list includes measures the county can authorize, including a .5 percent income tax or a 4 percent meals tax, and measures the General Assembly must approve, such as a sales tax on services or gas tax.

Sup. Pat Herrity (Springfield) told the 20 attendees at Springfield Government Center he thought Fairfax County should try to fund transportation through partnerships with developers, a method the county has used in the past.

“The No. 1 way we funded transportation in Fairfax County was from the business community,” he said in his opening statement. “It was through proffers. It was through special tax districts.”

But Marsden said "clearly, we wouldn’t have to be doing all of this if the state was better living up to its responsibilities in terms of funding transportation,” he said.

Marsden told attendees the state’s primary source of transportation funding – a 17 cent per gallon gas tax – just doesn't have heft it used to. He also said smaller rural areas of the state that don’t need as much road maintenance, and therefore, want to pay for education instead, are against helping fund work in Northern Virginia.

“Rural areas do not want to participate in statewide increases in transportation funding,” he said. “It’s very difficult for us to move forward as one commonwealth.”

That divide in Richmond kills many transportation measures in the House of Delegates Finance Committee, he said.

Residents have until 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 to take the online survey about how to fund transportation improvements. To take the survey, click here.

Survey results will be presented to the board of supervisors on Oct. 23. They will then decide whether to follow through on any recommendations.

Elizabeth Bradsher September 25, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I think it is always so very easy for politicians to make a statement such as "funding transportation through a public/private partnership." The real issue is why hasn't this been done sooner to alleviate our congestion? Our traffic congestion did not happen over night and we all know the mantra about the southern part of the state not wanting to help Northern VA solve its transporatation problems. Therefore, those of you in office fix it...simply fix it because that is what you were elected to do without imposing hardship on the public. We are tired of the funding gaps and the same rhetoric....we do want resolutions and not grand standing.
Kathy Keith September 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Dulles Greenway was public/private. 495 HOV lanes are public/private. New HOT lanes on I-95 are public/private. Some special tax districts like Rt 28 might be public private (not sure on that one). There are more than you think.
Elizabeth Bradsher September 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Ms. Keith, my point was that if we need more public/private partnerships then we should seek them and not wait for a breaking point. The state of transportation in this area has been a major issue for at least 2 decades--this is nothing new. As for the HOT Lanes on 495 their cost; $1.25 per mile may be prohibitive for many and the Dulles Greenway is $2.45 one way for 14 miles. It seems ironic we fund the state through our taxes for road improvement, and yet in certain instances we are paying twice for the use of certain roads and highways.
Navid Roshan September 27, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The problem becomes at the same time as wanting the public private partnership they are demonized as they have been in Tysons for "profiting developers" They profit everyone, and yes developers will make money but that is capitalism. At the end of the day everyone benefits. I think one of the bigger issues we need to look at here is what exactly are ALL of the projects and who do they really benefit? Projects like the Route 7 widening barely help FFX county residents and after more studies are completed it will show that the majority of Route 7 users during rush hour actually originate from Loudoun County. So our 500 million dollar project to widening Route 7 (part of this total 10 year obligation) is being done to mostly help Loudouners live outside of Fairfax and get to work faster. The point is, sometimes we need to do more with less and in cases where upgrades are needed, use leverage for those improvements by going back to those who reap the biggest benefits (like on Route 7). Just because a road goes through our county doesnt mean that our county is the one that reaps the most gains from its improvement. Often road improvements largest impacts occur well upstream at origination points not at the "location of the problem". Just ask Arlington, who is against widening Route 66 because it doesnt benefit them, it benefits Fairfax and Prince William.

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