Virginia Approves Spending For Roads

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007

Virginia transportation officials approved yesterday a 41 percent increase in transportation funding over the next six years, reflecting the additional spending on roads and mass transit agreed to by the General Assembly and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) earlier this year.

It was the first transportation spending plan in 21 years to show a major increase in funding and will boost the number of major highway projects across the state from 48 to 206.

In Northern Virginia, the plan includes $2.1 billion for regional projects, including purchasing rail cars for Metro and Virginia Railway Express, widening Interstate 95 in Fairfax County and Route 50 in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, completing the Fairfax County Parkway and improving the interchange at Route 29 and Interstate 66 in Prince William County.

The program, approved in Richmond by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, will allocate $11 billion to projects across the state from 2008 through 2013, a $3.1 billion increase over last year's version of Virginia's six-year plan. The plan, which is updated every year, apportions money for transportation projects proposed for construction, development or study in the next six fiscal years.

Earlier this year, state officials authorized about $500 million in new tax revenue and borrowing to fix Virginia's transportation infrastructure.

In addition, the bipartisan compromise approved by the General Assembly gave the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority permission to raise an additional $400 million a year in local fees and taxes that would be spent on projects in the region. The authority, whose 16 members represent local governments, is expected to start making decisions on funding and projects after July 1.

"We have tried to listen to the regional and local priorities in establishing the six-year plan,'' said Pierce R. Homer, Virginia transportation secretary. "With the establishment of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, those regional priorities take on added significance.''

To increase space on major commuter routes, the plan pays for a fourth lane on I-95 between Newington and the Occoquan River, a project costing $110 million that is set to begin early next year.

Also included is $53 million to add a third lane in each direction on Route 50 from Lee Road in Fairfax County to Poland Road in Loudoun County. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013.

The plan finances the fourth phase of the Gainesville interchange at Route 29 and I-66. The $181 million project adds an interchange between Route 29 and Linton Hall Road in Prince William, eliminating a traffic signal. The project will also widen Route 29 for one mile between I-66 and Virginia Oaks.

The six-year plan includes $1.5 million to study transportation alternatives along the congested I-66 corridor. After regional officials voted to widen westbound I-66 by a lane inside the Capital Beltway, Arlington County officials have been pushing for a study that would include transit and other alternatives to widening the highway.

The state will pay $39.4 million to replace the Washington Boulevard bridge at Columbia Pike and $32 million to improve the interchange at Route 50 and Courthouse Road in Arlington.

In addition to ongoing lane-widening work on I-66 in Prince William, the state will begin a major repaving of a seven-mile stretch of I-66 between the Beltway and Route 50 in Fairfax beginning in spring 2009.

Also part of the latest six-year plan is money to complete the last two miles of the Fairfax County Parkway, from Rolling Road to Fullerton Road in southeastern Fairfax.

In Loudoun County, the plan finances the widening of the Route 7 Bypass at Leesburg and the construction of the Battlefield Parkway, allowing motorists another way to access busy Route 7.

The transportation board increased transit spending, with money for the first phase of the extension of Metro's Orange Line from East Falls Church to Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport.

There is also $20 million for badly needed Metrorail cars and $15 million for Virginia Railway Express cars.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company