FAIRFAX, VA. — At his annual transportation conference, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell discussed the bipartisan progress being made in addressing Virginia's transportation challenges, while also announcing that he was working on a significant transportation funding package for the upcoming General Assembly session that will eliminate the need to transfer road construction funds to maintenance by 2019, and put at least $500 million a year in new transportation funding into roads, bridges, transit and passenger rail.
Speaking at the conference, Gov. McDonnell said, "Driving around the state, you can now see hundreds of projects underway to get people and freight in Virginia moving again. Many of these projects are being funded by our 2011 Transportation Funding Package, which set the framework for investing $4 billion over a three-year period at a time when Virginia is seeing near historically low interest rates and construction costs. It is the most new funding for transportation in Virginia since 1986 and it happened through Republicans and Democrats working together. But our work is not done.
"The challenges facing the commonwealth's transportation system boil down to jobs. Our ability to attract and retain jobs depends on our ability to come together across party lines and regional boundaries to finally address our transportation funding needs. The 2011 Texas Transportation Institute ranked the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia metropolitan area as the most congested area in terms of commuter delay in the U.S., and Hampton Roads isn't far behind. This congestion had an average cost per commuter of $1,495 and an overall regional impact of $3.8 billion. The purchasing power behind Virginia's motor fuels tax, the largest source of state transportation funding, has declined by 54 percent since 1986. On top of that decline, we have more vehicles traveling Virginia's roadways, and increasing CAFE standards and use of alternative fuel vehicles. Declining revenues and growing needs present an ever increasing threat to our ability to maintain our existing infrastructure, construct new roads, and expand our transportation options.
“The time to address these challenges is now. We cannot wait any longer. That is why I will be submitting a comprehensive transportation funding package for consideration during the 2013 General Assembly Session. My goal for our funding package is to generate at least $500 million in revenues annually by 2019. The new transportation revenues will be dedicated to maintenance, and will eliminate the shortfall which is causing more and more funds meant for construction to be instead spent just maintaining our existing infrastructure. This additional revenue will free up funds for new construction, and will lead to additional funds for transit and passenger rail. Over the coming weeks, we will be announcing additional aspects and specifics of this package. The time to address our transportation funding challenges is now. We cannot continue kicking the can down the road."
Speaking at the conference, Gov. McDonnell highlighted numerous positive steps underway to improve transportation infrastructure in the commonwealth. Among the items he noted were:
As of August 2012, $14 billion worth of projects are now under construction, or in procurement throughout all parts of the Commonwealth, including:
• Dulles Metrorail — $5.7 billion
• The Downtown/Midtown Tunnel/MLK Extension — $2.1 billion
• The Route 460 Corridor Improvements Project — $1.7 billion
• Truck climbing lanes on I-81
• The reconstruction of 11 bridges over I-95 in Richmond
Construction is underway on the 95 Express Lanes Project
• Expected to open in early 2015
Next week, for the first time in 35 years, there will be Amtrak passenger rail service to Norfolk
• This new service will provide a new seamless connection for the Hampton Roads community to Richmond, D.C. and beyond into the northeast rail corridor
Reforms have been made to offset the costs of operating and maintaining Rest Area facilities
• The Sponsorship, Advertising, Vending Enhancement (SAVE) program, a cost-saving program designed to generate additional revenues to help defray the cost of operating the Commonwealth's 43 Safety Rest Areas and Welcome Centers
• This program, combined with the "Safe Phone Zone" program sponsored by Geico, announced earlier this year, will generate a minimum of $2 million per year to help fund these facilities
Four separate audits of Virginia's transportation agencies and programs have been conducted
• The most significant of these audits — the Comprehensive VDOT Performance Audit — identified more than $1.4 billion in transportation funds that have since been invested in projects and made over 50 recommendations for streamlining VDOT operations
• Another audit focused on improving the relationship between VDOT and the regional MPOs by streamlining and strengthening VDOT's planning and programming activities to give MPOs a more active role.
• A third audit lead to steps to better utilize and implement the tremendous research conducted at the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research. Much of this research is focused on improving materials and processes to create new efficiencies and reduce costs.
• The last audit examined the Commonwealth's PPTA program in an effort to streamline the process and ensure a programmatic approach. As a result of the PPTA audit, Virginia created the Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) and issued a revised PPTA Implementation Manual and Guidelines. These changes and a new programmatic approach to PPTAs led OTP3 earlier this year to issue a list of candidate and conceptual PPTA proposals. This list begins the process of identifying and planning for the future of Virginia's PPTA program
The formation of a work group chaired by Delegate Jimmie Massie, comprised of business leaders, legislators, and stakeholders
• To identify improvements to the process to ensure transparency and public involvement
• To make recommendations throughout the General Assembly Session and spring
Steps taken by VDOT to improve technology to save time and money by unveiling the next generation of 511 and implementing electronic messaging signs that provide real-time traffic information
• The improvements to 511 have led to a 60 percent increase in use of the system
Reform begun at MWAA and getting Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project back on track
• Over the course of the past year we have
o Reduced the estimated project costs from $3.8 billion to $2.7 billion
o Eliminated costly scoring preferences for contractors utilizing PLAs from the procurement documents
o Loudoun County decided to join Fairfax in sharing funding responsibility for the project
o MWAA has revised its travel policies and terminated contracts with former board members
o D.C. approved amendments to its enabling statutes allowing the new appointees secured by Congressman Wolf to be seated
o As a result of D.C.'s actions, earlier this fall, the governor announced the appointment of three new Virginia members to the MWAA Board of Directors
Steps taken last session to incentivize job creation and economic development through the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority
• Last session, the governor signed into law legislation that reconstituted the Board of Directors, amended the Authority's powers and duties, and provided it with the necessary resources to grow
• As of 2009, the aerospace industry had an economic impact of $7.6 billion and supported over 28,000 jobs in Virginia
The Port of Virginia
• Last session we created the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone, which provides grants ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 for companies that come to or expand in Virginia to utilize our port.
• We also created the Port Opportunity Fund to enhance the Virginia Port Authority's marketing efforts and help provide incentives to shippers utilizing our port.
• Earlier this year, the Department of Aviation issued revised regulations regarding airport licensing
o Designed to reduce the burdens on airports and make it easier to comply with licensing requirements
• The commonwealth, in conjunction with the VPA Board of Commissioners, is currently reviewing detailed proposals submitted by APM Terminals and RREEF Infrastructure to take over operations at the Port of Virginia.
o We are also reviewing a business plan from the current operator - Virginia International Terminals.
• Both bidders and VIT's business plan will undergo a detailed review to ensure that any decision on how to proceed is in the best interest of not only the Port of Virginia, but the commonwealth at-large.
• The governor's sole goal from this process - regardless of the outcome - is to ensure that our port has the most appropriate operating model and is operating cost effectively and efficiently so that the Port of Virginia can take advantage of its infrastructure and natural assets to grow the Virginia economy and create jobs.