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The 'golden crescent' must not be ignored
General Assembly 2013--transportation: Del. Tom Rust: Transportation: A Solvable Problem

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Date published: 1/6/2013


--Since Gov. McDonnell took office as governor, major investments have been made in Virginia's transportation infrastructure. There have been approximately $1.8 billion in bonds sold, another $1.2 billion in GARVEE bonds proposed, savings and efficiencies in VDOT of $1.4 billion, and creation of the Virginia Infrastructure Bank, all of which are moving forward. Major projects in Virginia include the Downtown-Midtown tunnels in Hampton Roads, Interstate 95 improvements, the I-495 High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, U.S. 460 improvements, the Silver Metro Line, all totaling approximately $14 billion in projects. All is applied to the Virginia highway system--approximately 126,000 miles--the third largest in the U.S., and includes approximately 12,000 bridges.

Virginia is one of only four states to maintain its secondary roads. Major local funding comes from the motor vehicle fuel tax, motor vehicle sales and use tax, motor vehicle license fees, and federal highway funds. Motor fuel tax and federal highway funds are a declining revenue source; federal funds are unpredictable. Transportation is approaching a crisis.

Northern Virginia--the economic engine of Virginia--has the dubious distinction of being the most congested area in the U.S.; Hampton Roads is not far behind and is getting worse by the day. Political leaders of all jurisdictions in the golden crescent--running from Northern Virginia through Richmond to Hampton Roads--have signed a letter asking the General Assembly to create new long-term sustainable transportation funding for Virginia. As much as the word "tax" is decried, Virginia's transportation system cannot be sustained or improved without additional revenue. It will take courage and leadership to solve this problem.

I along with a number of my colleagues in the House and Senate are prepared to address the problem. Sen. Watkins is chief patron of a bill in the Senate, and I will be chief patron of a similar bill in the House of Delegates to address the issue and, yes, it does increase revenues for transportation. Key components will extend the general sales and use tax to fuel at the wholesale level, reduce income tax brackets, and remove some tax credits and exemptions from other industries and dedicate the money to transportation.

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Del. Tom Rust, a Republican, represents the 86th District (parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties) in the Virginia House of Delegates.