By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Virginia will receive an additional $32 million in transportation funds from the federal government, a bonus as the state struggles with how to pay for repairs to its crumbling roads and decaying infrastructure.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation said the money would be spent on the extension of Metrorail to Dulles, Virginia Railway Express, replacing the Gilmerton Bridge in Hampton Roads and other structural and bridge maintenance projects.
Money becomes available at the end of every federal fiscal year when the Federal Highway Administration reviews highway spending and determines which states have efficiently spent their federal allotments and which have not. The money Virginia will receive will come from funds reallocated from the inefficient states.
VDOT spent more than $741 million in federal funding for the fiscal year that ends Tuesday. The state had asked the Federal Highway Administration for an additional $164 million and received $32 million. "Strong financial management has allowed Virginia to secure additional federal funding again this year," state Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer said in a statement.
Virginia has been struggling to keep up with increased traffic, especially in Northern Virginia. A 2002 referendum proposal to increase taxes in Northern Virginia to pay for roads was defeated. And the Virginia Supreme Court this year disallowed the appointed Northern Virginia Transportation Authority from raising taxes and fees to fund $300 million a year in regional projects.
During a special session in July, the General Assembly failed to come up with a fix that would allow the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to continue, and it failed to provide extra money for transportation. Lawmakers also failed to come up with a permanent funding source for Metro, jeopardizing a possible $1.5 billion in federal funds for the regional transit system.
Transportation officials estimate that the state faces a $3 billion shortfall over six years in the part of the budget used to maintain roadways and bridges and that most of that money would have to be taken from new projects.