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McDonnell Calls on Senate to Pass Roads Funding

The governor visited Fairfax County on Monday to rally support for his transportation bill, promising some money to reduce fees on the Dulles Toll Road.

Gov. Bob McDonnell made a stop in Northern Virginia on Monday afternoon to urge locals to push their representatives to support his divisive transportation-funding package, which the state Senate is scheduled to vote on again Tuesday.

The governor said his proposal, , would raise about $3 billion for road and transit improvements over the next five years. The bill would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax and raise the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

The House last week amended their version of the bill, eliminating a $100 alternative vehicle fee for owners of hybrid cars and prohibiting tolls on I-95 south of Fredericksburg.

Senate Republicans offered their own amendments to the bill, including proposals to raise the gas tax to 5.5 percent or even 8 percent. But Senate Democrats shot down both ideas.

In his statement, delivered at the administration headquarters for the Dulles Toll Road, McDonnell lamented the Senate vote, calling it a “terribly partisan result.”

McDonnell stressed the bill’s passage would raise $300 million that would go directly towards relieving the projected soar in toll prices when construction begins on Phase II of Metro's Silver Line to Dulles International Airport.

“I’ve seen a lot of plans come and go in Richmond, and I will say that this is as close as we have been to getting a long-term, sustainable funding plan in place,” he said, emphasizing that something had to be done this session.

“The time for politics is over,” he said. “We’ve only been talking about it now for 20 years. This is the time for action.”

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Jim Corcoran, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said the $300 million for toll relief would be critical to the ongoing redevelopment of Tysons Corner, a massive project that will benefit the entire state.

“For this to continue to grow, for entrepreneurs to continue to build business here, we have to get this passed,” Corcoran said.

Jack Potter, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said the $300 million would decrease prices on the toll road by about 50 to 60 cents per trip in today’s dollars. He also said MWAA had already voted to increase tolls – currently $2.75 per trip – to $3.50 in 2014, and that they were expected to reach $6.75 by 2019.

Potter guaranteed the $300 million in the governor’s bill would go directly towards lowering tolls, and said any other money from the state or federal government would as well.

“Any money that comes to us will go to the roll road and to mitigating tolls,” Potter said.

McDonnell said he had been in contact with Senate Democrats over the weekend, particularly Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th), and that he was optimistic about reaching some sort of compromise.

“I’m encouraged,” McDonnell said.

The governor even admitted he might be open to a bill that combined the two approaches, such as a reduced reliance on the gas tax and a smaller sales-tax hike.

“We could talk about that,” he said.

But he also said any plan he would consider approving would have to raise an amount of similar to the $845 million his current proposal is expected to generate.

McDonnell was strongly opposed to a bill relying solely on the gas tax, which he called a “declining revenue source.”

“I’m not going to sign a $1 billion tax increase,” he said.

Before compromises could be made, McDonnell said the bill first had to pass the Senate.

“We’re on the 40 yard line, maybe even the 30,” he said. “I want to get it over the goal line.”

For more on Gov. McDonnell's transportation bill, see below:

  • Governor’s Transportation Plan Hits Roadblock
  • McDonnell's Transportation Bill Moves Forward
  • Speak Out: Will McDonnell's Tax Plan Help Virginia?
Rob Whitfield February 12, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Virginia and MWAA are not the main problem with Dulles Rail. The Governor has failed to demand accountability from the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. The public and media must investigate potential long term costs to Virginia taxpayers of the grossly mismanaged WMATA. WMATA's Board has repeatedly failed to adopt prudent financial plans to fund most of the projected $13.3 billion in capital replacement cost needs by 2020 for the original 103 mile Metrorail system. Last month WMATA's Board refused to propose raising Metrorail fares in the next fiscal year to help cover increased costs projected. Instead they expect taxpayers to increase the subsidies for this habitually mismanaged authority. WMATA will experience substantial increased costs associated with its capital improvement program -much of it required because of long deferred safety and maintenance items. The pre-opening costs of Phase 1 of the Silver Line may add $200 million or more to the WMATA budget. WMATA has failed to make long overdue investments in upgraded traction power substations and expanded ingress and egress facilities at Washington DC stations. This will result in more overcrowding on Orange Line trains and Arlington County and DC stations due to the inability of WMATA to operate more 8 car trains. WMATA has not explained why Dulles Toll Road users should pay most costs of a proposed Dulles maintenance facility, designed mostly for Series 7000 railcars to be used elsewhere.
Bob Bruhns February 13, 2013 at 01:40 AM
It would also help if the line item cost numbers were not concealed from the public, as they are in the Dulles Rail / Silver Line project. The concept of a government-business partnership to build these projects was sold to us on the grounds that it would LOWER prices. But what we actually find is that these agreements allow the government and the businesses to conceal excessive line item prices, preventing people from seeing and pointing out the price excesses. The result is economy-crashing costs that nobody will explain. This is the reason why our Rt 28 rail station is estimated at more than two times what a comparable, actually more sophisticated station cost in Fairfield Connecticut in December 2011. I know people don't care about things like this, but such excessive costs appear to be entirely typical of the Dulles Rail / Silver Line project, the monstrous overcosts of which are about to drag the local economy to its knees. And then of course, the even bigger overcosts that WMATA is about to hand us, will surely finish the demolition of Northern Virginia. It's really a shame.

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