McDonnell: Virginia $500 million a year short on transportation funds

Hank Silverberg,

VIENNA, Va. – Another year, another worry about the money needed to fix and construct roads in Virginia.

Gov. Bob McDonnell says the state needs to find a way to raise at least $500 million each year between now and 2019 just to maintain current roads.

“It’s got to be at least sufficient to be able to deal with the maintenance deficit that we expect in 2018,” says McDonnell.

Among the proposals being kicked around the halls of the state capitol in Richmond are an inflation-based increase of the state’s 17 cent gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1986, a possible sales tax hike and more tolls.

The governor made his comments at the state’s annual transportation conference, underway this week in Tysons Corner in the shadow of construction for Metro’s new Silver Line.

McDonnell was speaking to contractors and state transportation workers, but made note that the audience included 23 members of the General Assembly. Among them was Delegate Tom Rust, R-Loudoun.

Rust says the debate in the General Assembly could end up the same way it has for each of the last ten years.

“Up until this point we have not been unsuccessful, but I think I heard today that the governor’s committed to helping us to get something done.”

McDonnell says he will have more specific proposals when the General Assembly convenes in January, but he was non-committal on specifics when pressed by reporters.

Virginia has committed to using more public-private partnerships for building highways, most recently the 495 Express Lanes which opened in November.

McDonnell says more of those partnerships are likely. He wouldn’t talk about toll increases elsewhere in the state to help maintain highways.

“People hate tolls unless you ask them if they’d rather raise the gas tax. Then they like tolls,” says McDonnell.

There are proposals to hike tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to partially finance the Metro rail extension to Dulles airport. And Virginia is considering the use of tolls in I-95 south of Fredericksburg to increase revenue.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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