Opinion: Commentary: Where Should the NVTA Spend $500 Million of Your Money?

Now is the time to help direct transportation funds to our community.

For 27 years, between 1986 and 2013, Virginia did not raise its transportation taxes. While labor, steel, asphalt and concrete got more expensive and cars became more fuel efficient, gas tax revenues declined. During those years, Virginia stopped repaving roads and other maintenance to fund road construction. In 2013, the General Assembly passed new taxes to restore highway maintenance funding and we passed new regional taxes to fund regional transportation construction through the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).

The 36th Senate District has benefitted from these taxes in projects like US 1/Richmond Highway widening (design and land acquisition), U.S. 1/Dumfries widening (design and land acquisition), U.S. 1 bus rapid transit (design), U.S. 1 at Featherstone widening, $80 million in Virginia Rail Express improvements, a new CSX bridge crossing of US. 1 at I-95 and Old Bridge Road/Occoquan Road intersection reconstruction.

Every two years, the NVTA determines projects to fund in a six-year plan, projects nominated by local governments and other entities. The NTVA uses objective criteria to rate projects based on congestion relief, economic development, pollution reduction and safety with congestion relief getting the highest weight. This ranking is named after the bill that authorized it – HB599.

After projects are scored, the score is divided by the funding request so that we can see which projects give our region the biggest bang for the buck. As you can see in the table below, this means that while some projects scored very well – such as the U.S. 1 widening – after you consider the cost, their relative ranking drops.

The NVTA considers the scores and public input to decide how to program $522 million — an amount that could change in light of reduced economic activity from the coronavirus pandemic. This year, they are considering over 46 projects totaling $1.6 billion. This means fewer than one-third of the requests will be funded. There are seven projects at risk in the 36th Senate District:

If the NVTA funds these projects in the order of their rankings with current funds, the cutoff will occur after Project #23, Van Buren Road Extension, and the U.S. 1 widening will not be funded or Prince William County Parkway realignment.

NVTA is currently receiving public comments and needs to hear from you. Your comments are critical. I have created two comment forms for constituents to submit comments that I will forward to the NVTA. You can find them here:

Comment on NVTA FY2020-25 Six-Year Plan - https://bit.ly/2020NVTA

Some have complained to me about high taxes, tax increases, cutting staff to pay for roads or urged me to find other ways to address our transportation needs. I welcome your suggestions, but please understand that these taxes are authorized, are now the law, and we are currently paying them. If we want these funds spent in our community instead of other parts of Northern Virginia, everyone must speak up now. Not acting is in effect asking that these funds be spent else where.

If you want to see improvements in our area, please use these forms and send your comments by the deadline, May 24, 2020.

Please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any questions. I welcome your views.

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