Northern Virginia should receive a larger share of federal highway money because the region has the most traffic in the state, local officials are expected to tell the state's transportation board on Monday.
The officials will appear at a 7:30 p.m. public meeting at Chantilly High School held by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which sets the state's transportation policy.
The board is trying to get an idea from residents and elected officials what position the state should take next year when Virginia joins the other states in developing a new federal highway program. The current program, established by Congress in 1956, expires next year, and Congress will create a new one.
Gov. L. Douglas Wilder asked the board to establish a position for the state. Having closed off the option of raising taxes to finance transportation projects, Wilder is hoping the new federal program will provide a source of money.
Boiled down, Virginia wants Congress to provide substantial increases in federal money for highways and mass transit. And Virginia wants more of that money than it has been getting ($287 million last year).
Some local officials believe that when federal money is distributed across the state, transportation policy-makers in Richmond favor other regions at Northern Virginia's expense.
"We want dollars to be shared on the basis of use" of roads, Fairfax County Board Chairman Audrey Moore said in a letter she has sent to supporters and others.
Northern Virginia has 21 percent of the state's daily traffic, but only 5 percent of the state's miles, the transportation department says. Fairfax has the highest daily traffic volumes in the state.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a private organization formed by developers and other business leaders to advance transportation projects in the region, will agree with Moore that more money is needed in this area.
But the alliance, which frequently clashes with Moore, also is expected to say in testimony that highway money the state does receive from the federal government should go to an institution such as a regional transportation authority instead of local governments.
The alliance believes that local government leaders look out for their own parochial interests instead of the region's, and that a transportation authority consisting of regional officials could better plan for the area.
Transportation officials have also been concerned about the effect state budget difficulties will have on already scheduled road projects, but have learned that, for this year at least, Fairfax County has been spared serious harm. Out of $204 million in cuts statewide, only a $1.7 million widening of Route 123 in Fairfax City will be delayed, and that by about six months.
"Considering the size of the statewide shortfall, I'm certainly pleased with the very, very limited cut that was done in Northern Virginia," said Shiva K. Pant, director of the Fairfax County Office of Transportation. "It probably was a recognition that Northern Virginia has the worst congestion in the state and that this area could not afford to have projects delayed or cut."