Despite the passage of a massive transportation funding bill this year, transportation matters will likely still be high on Fairfax County’s legislative agenda come January.
One of the county’s major concerns is that a key piece of the new transportation funds may not materialize for several more years, said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee.
Because of a prior legislative action during the 2012 General Assembly session, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has the authority to allocate up to $500 million per year to “priority projects” before money flows into the road construction fund.
This means that there will be no construction money for secondary or urban roads until at least 2017, according to Fairfax County staff. The secondary road category encompasses most streets in the county that aren’t highways or residential streets.
The secondary road construction fund has been empty about four years, since fiscal 2010, because of a lack of funding.
“Secondary roads are kind of the bread and butter of local government,” McKay said. “If it is going to take until 2017 for the public to see improvements, that is a problem.”
In addition to the lack of funding for local priorities, some of the projects that the Commonwealth Transportation Board has designated as priority projects are controversial, including the bi-county parkway in Prince William and Loudoun counties and the Charlottesville bypass.
McKay said he doesn’t see the point in investing in new roads, especially ones that may not have local support, when “the existing secondary roads that we have are falling apart.”
The county may ask legislators to eliminate or modify the priority projects provision when it approves its legislative agenda later this year.
Another area of concern for Fairfax is a possible shift in the state funding formula for transit service. While the committee studying this issue is still formulating its recommendations, it is expected to propose a change to the funding formula that would shift some transit dollars away from Northern Virginia.
“This is grand larceny for Northern Virginia,” McKay said, saying it could mean losing millions in transit funds.
Northern Virginia currently receives about 70 percent of the state’s transit funding, said Fairfax County Director of Transportation Tom Besiadny.
“The reason we have been getting more money for transit is that we have more transit,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large). Much of that funding helps cover operating costs.
“If there is an attempt to even things out, that’s not fair,” she said.
The state committee reviewing the funding formula held a public hearing this week and is expected to make its recommendation Oct. 11.