Roundtable highlights future of Va. transporation projects

Officials meet for a transportation funding round table. (WTOP/Michelle Murillo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Federal funding for transportation projects is running out and northern Virginia is working to avoid putting the brakes on a lot of planned projects.

Unless something changes, the U.S. Department of Transportation projects fund could be depleted by late August.

On Monday, northern Virginia transportation officials came together to talk to Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine about the importance of getting the fund refilled because federal money is almost half of what goes into those projects.

“Some of the things that would mean is starting next year we wouldn’t replace about 150 structurally deficient bridges,” said Nick Donahue, the Virginia deputy secretary of transportation.

He added that about 2,000 miles of pavement wouldn’t be repaired and hundreds of projects wouldn’t get off the ground. Smaller transit systems in rural Virginia areas could shut down.

Kelley Coyner, the executive director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission added, “If the trust funds run dry, it’s going to disrupt the construction season this summer and for transit, we’re really going to feel it in the fall, right as we see the new Silver Line coming on board.”

Coyner says they do have some reserves to lessen the blow if the funding does stop.

“Uncertainty is the new name of the game,” said Marty Nohe, chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. “We would be unrealistic to think that the political gridlock in Washington is going to change anytime soon.”

In the coming years, Nohe said short term solutions would become normal.

Kaine says while he knows the difficulties they face in transportation, after meeting with the local officials he has a better feel for just how hard this is making things.

“The thing I learned the most how the unreliability of federal funding has a ripple effect that affects projects but also affects planning,” Kaine said.

Now, Kaine says he’s trying to do what he can to keep things on track.

“I’m on the budget committee and I’ve been preaching since I got there. Let’s get back to regular order. Let’s do budgets. Let’s do 2-year budgets. Let’s do meaningful appropriations bills rather than continuing resolutions,” he said.

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