Now, after 11 years in limbo, the authority expects to receive about $190 million over the next year alone. The flow will begin after new taxes kick in July 1, fruits of a long-sought bipartisan transportation deal reached this year in Richmond.
“There are a lot of things the government does well. There are a lot of things government does poorly. There is nothing government does quickly,” said Martin E. Nohe, authority chairman and a Republican supervisor from Prince William County. Given the years of delay, there’s pressure on the authority “to produce an outcome that was worth the wait.”
The authority is approaching its sudden relevance with a combination of speed and caution, with members caught between a desire to demonstrate fast results and an aversion to fouling up this rare opportunity.
In recent days, a group of authority members put forward a preliminary list of more than 30 projects totaling nearly $190 million that could be ready to go July 1. It included tens of millions of dollars for major improvements, such as widening Route 28 in Fairfax and Prince William counties as well as road and transit projects in Arlington County and Alexandria. The projects were culled from earlier plans.
The draft met some resistance, offering a reminder of the region’s varied transportation priorities and geography.
Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) told local officials at a business gathering that he had concerns about some of the items on the list, including bus shelters and improvements for bicyclists. “That’s not why I voted to raise taxes,” LeMunyon said. In a letter to the authority, he also called for more information on how each project would reduce congestion and said he couldn’t support the list as presented.
At an authority meeting Thursday, Sandra K. Bushue, who was appointed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), also raised concerns about how some of the projects were being categorized.
She said that some items on the draft list of the authority’s regional projects seemed better suited for pots of funding controlled by each jurisdiction. The legislation sets up a 70-30 split, with 70 percent going to the authority and the rest to Northern Virginia localities. In the next year, that means roughly $190 million will go to the authority for projects and about $80 million will go to localities for funding decisions, according to official projections.
Bushue said the authority should emphasize cross-jurisdictional projects with its money.