Alexandria eyes commercial transport tax

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alexandria officials are discussing a transportation tax on commercial and industrial properties.

Alexandria is expecting about 30 million square feet of development within the Route 1 corridor and in the Landmark and Van Dorn area. A plan for more commercial, residential and office space is in the works for the Beauregard corridor.

Transportation initiatives in those areas, however, lack funding, officials said.

"I think the city needs to be bold," said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley (D). Not only should Alexandria consider proposing a commercial add-on tax, but the city should also identify projects in high residential areas that promote regional connectivity and "serve as a catalyst for the economic development that we've been forecasting," he said.

A transportation tax, as passed by the 2007 General Assembly, must be used specifically for new projects and to buy new stock, such as new buses, said Rich Baier, Alexandria's transportation chief. The maximum tax of 12.5 cents per $100 of a commercial property's assessed value would raise about $11 million in Alexandria, he said.

Arlington and Fairfax counties have transportation taxes of 12.5 cents and 11 cents per $100 of assessed value, respectively.

Arlington officials also are considering a tax increment financing area along Route 1 to fund the county's portion of the Crystal City sector plan and improvements in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

The city attempted to pass a 3-cent add-on tax last fiscal year to buy buses and bike racks for the buses, but that idea did not generate much interest or support, Donley said.

This year, however, the city is facing a $140 million streetcar conversion within the Route 1 corridor. It also is in the midst of finding roadway and transit solutions in the totally unfunded Beauregard Corridor, not only because of the pending opening of the federal government building at Mark Center, but also because of future development.

Mayor William D. Euille (D) told Alexandria and Arlington County officials at a joint meeting last Thursday that when it comes to transportation funding, "We are behind the eight ball."

Arlington County Board member Barbara A. Favola (D) said that her jurisdiction's add-on tax has helped the county provide matching local grants for federal dollars. Some federal grants require a 20 percent local match.

"We've been able to bring in quite a bit of money because of that dedicated source of funding," Favola said.

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