On its way to being the first jurisdiction in the state to finance a road project by selling bonds through a quasi-government agency, Prince William County also has become the first jurisdiction to put up a road as collateral.
The Virginia Resources Authority -- founded in 1984 to help smaller communities borrow money for the construction of water and sewer systems, public safety buildings and airports -- now has the ability to lend money for roads, through a new law passed by the General Assembly. The agency wanted some assurance that the $46 million in bonds it will float for Prince William will be repaid. "We don't make loans without security," said Howard P. Estes Jr., the agency's deputy director.
Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, said the county was surprised that a jurisdiction of its size -- with a population of 354,000 and a $765 million annual budget -- would have to guarantee $46 million with property. "It's a meaningless requirement," he said.
The road the county put up is Prince William Parkway from Hoadly Road to Liberia Avenue, said Liz Bahrns, a spokeswoman for the county.
Estes said the authority generally requires borrowers to put up property related to a loan. For example, jurisdictions borrowing money for a public safety building would use the building site as collateral, he said.
Prince William is using the VRA as another way to pay for roads, which have become increasingly difficult to finance because of diminishing state funds. The county will use $22 million for the construction of Spriggs Road and another $24 million to complete Linton Hall Road. Both projects were approved in a 1998 bond referendum but fell through when Virginia withdrew transportation funding and the money was redirected to other roads, county officials said.
In other road business, the board last week approved routes for the Manassas National Battlefield Bypass and a tri-county parkway from Godwin Drive to the Fairfax County line.
Although there is no funding for the project and construction is several steps and years away, the bypass could take traffic out of the battlefield, while the tri-county parkway could connect Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties from Route 50 near Dulles to the Route 234 and Route 28 interchange in Prince William. Combined, the projects are about a $1 billion venture and are being opposed by environmentalists and anti-sprawl groups, such as the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
The coalition favors improving secondary roads and Interstate 66 instead of building the two new thoroughfares.