Implementing the state transportation bill passed earlier this year means more than accepting wads of cash for new road and transit projects.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is reviewing its processes for prioritizing projects, including using a cost-benefit analysis, and planning for major public outreach this fall.
After years of very constrained state spending on transportation, the county is expected to see an influx of transportation dollars as soon as fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.
This includes an estimated $55 million from statewide funds to be spent in the county in fiscal 2014 plus $39 million in locally generated funds for the county to spend and $91 million going to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for regional projects.
NVTA has been holding a series of public meetings to get input on its first list of regional projects that could qualify for local funding. The NVTA board could vote on the 2014 list in late July, and then the authority will develop a longer-range plan.
As the largest jurisdiction in the region, Fairfax County in essence can veto any NVTA proposal but cannot advance anything on its own, said Tom Biesiadny, the county’s transportation director.
Fairfax County will also be working on updating its longer-range transportation plans this fall to account for the new funding landscape.
In addition to input from the public and elected officials on future projects, the county has also developed its own benefit-cost ratio to evaluate future projects.
Some supervisors expressed reservations about relying too heavily on the benefit-cost ratio in making decisions.
A project like the widening of Stringfellow Road in Chantilly would not look good on a benefit-cost ratio, said Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) but could be very important for congestion relief. That particular road widening required a lot of utility relocation and land acquisition that drove up the cost.
“Everybody that has ever opposed a road project is going to hang onto this [ratio],” Frey said.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) countered that tools like the benefit-cost ratio and other methods of prioritizing projects are important in building public confidence that tax dollars are being spent wisely.
“I think tools like cost-benefit analysis and congestion relief measures are going to help us do that and they’re something we’ve got to pay attention to,” Herrity said.