A drive for a $500 million statewide road bond referendum is being spearheaded in Loudoun County in an effort to have the state pay for needed improvements and new construction on Rtes. 28 and 7.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank Raflo has written the chairmen of all 95 of Virginia's county boards seeking their support of a recommendation by the transportation committee of the Virginia Association of Counties to have the General Assembly put the road bond issue to voters in 1987. Raflo, who serves on the legislative committee of the Virginia Municipal League, said that he also plans to ask the league's transportation committee to support a statewide referendum.
"If you don't have a problem with roads in your county don't read any further," the correspondence begins in capital letters. It goes on to recommend that the reader study the enclosed recommendation and resolution from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
"Our road needs are too severe in this county," Raflo said. "We need to take grassroots leadership on the statewide referendum." According to Memory Porter, who serves as the county's representative on the board of the Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia is one of only four states that have never supported a statewide referendum.
Raflo said the county supports the $500 million bond despite a report to the legislature by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee that at least $16 billion is needed to maintain existing roads and build new ones throughout the state. "We have to start somewhere," Raflo said. "And this is better than nothing."
Although the fast -- growing county is in need of road improvements and construction, officials here agree with the majority of residents: roads are the responsibility of the state. Faced with its own massive road problems, Fairfax County took the opposite course earlier this month and voted to submit a $134.4 million road bond proposal to its voters in November.
"We have no intention of adding to the real estate tax," said Raflo. Instead, Raflo suggested that a two-cent increase on the state's gasoline tax would raise approximately $70 million, sufficient leverage, he said, on which to borrow the $500 million for roads.
Despite what Supervisor Andrew Bird calls a 200-year tradition of "pay-as-you-go" in Virginia, Bird, a conservative Republican, supports the proposed referendum. "Ordinarily pay-as-you-go is a good philosophy," he said. "But the formula on which the General Assembly funds road construction is such that the money Loudoun County receives for roads is steadily decreasing. If you're going to break a 200-year-old tradition, you'd better have something in the pot or you'll never do it again."
Virginia's roads are financed through a gasoline tax, a revenue source that officials say has been gradually decreasing over the years because of lower gas prices, more fuel-efficient cars and commuters who are increasingly choosing not to drive their cars. According to Porter, a two-cent increase in the gas tax to fund roads would mean that less than $1 million of the $70 million would go to Northern Virginia for primary roads under the current formula.