Virginia Gov. McDonnell signs bill that creates framework to invest nearly US$4B into road, rail, transit networks, fund more than 900 projects over next three years without raising taxes

CHESTER, Virginia , April 19, 2011 (press release) – At an early afternoon event held on the site of the currently under-construction Meadowville Interchange on I-295 in Chester, Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law today the most significant investment in the Commonwealth's transportation system in a generation. The legislation, HB2527 and SB1446, sponsored by Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) and Senators Chuck Colgan (D-Manassas) and William Wampler (R-Bristol), creates a framework to invest nearly $4 billion into Virginia's road, rail and transit networks, and fund more than 900 projects, over the next three years without raising taxes. The Meadowville Interchange is one of the 900 projects receiving funding from the legislation.

Speaking about the transportation legislation, Governor McDonnell noted, "It has been over 20 years since we have made a major investment in our transportation system. For far too long Virginians sat stuck in traffic while partisan politics put the brakes on progress. This year we put partisanship aside and recognized that for Virginia to retain its status as the friendliest state in the nation for business, we must invest in transportation and help the private sector create much-needed jobs in all parts of the Commonwealth. This common-sense legislation takes advantage of previously authorized and innovative new financing mechanisms at a time when interest rates and construction costs are at near historic lows and Virginians are in dire need of jobs. We are putting billions into our roads without a tax increase."

The governor continued, "All regions of the Commonwealth will benefit from 900 projects that will be funded by this legislation. They include improvements to bridges and rural roads in Southwest Virginia, new capacity and congestion relief in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and rail and transit improvements throughout Virginia. A recent report by Chmura Economics shows that construction of the 900 projects will grow the Virginia economy by over $13 billion and support an additional 100,000 jobs. This transportation legislation that we are signing today is a bipartisan achievement that will benefit Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth."

The following projects are examples of the nearly 900 that will be funded by this program:

Widening of I-66 from Gainesville to Haymarket and the installation of an active traffic management system on I-66 to dynamically control lanes to reduce congestion
Major interchange improvements on I-64, I-81 and I-95, in Frederick, Augusta, Stafford, and Louisa Counties
Widening Route 7 in Loudoun County
Rebuilding the Route 460 Southgate Avenue intersection in Montgomery County
Widening Lynnhaven Parkway, Holland Road and Witch Duck Road in Virginia Beach, as well as replacing the Lesner Bridge
Investments in Washington Metro, Hampton Roads Light rail, and other transit providers, including VRE to extend to Spotsylvania County.
Several Route 58 Corridor projects
Advancing PPTA projects such as the widening of Dominion Boulevard in Chesapeake; the constructing of a new tube for the Midtown Tunnel between Norfolk and Portsmouth; advancing the HOV/HOT lanes on I95 in Northern Virginia; and construction of a new Route 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg
Following the ceremony, Senator Chuck Colgan, Democratic President pro tempore of the State Senate, said, "I applaud Governor McDonnell for taking vital steps toward addressing the Commonwealth's transportation crisis. The reforms signed into law today, combined with this infusion of funding and the governor's work on transportation over the last year will have a lasting impact in beginning to address these challenges."

Delegate Glenn Oder commented, "From Hampton Roads to the Cumberland Gap, and from Northern Virginia to Danville, Virginians have faced deteriorating roads, increasing congestion, and challenges with access to goods and services because we have been unable to pass a comprehensive transportation plan that invests in our roads, rails and public transportation systems, and because our government bureaucracy has hindered the efficient use of available resources for transportation. This year, we worked across the aisle to usher in a new era for transportation that better manages our transportation funding and makes VDOT more efficient and responsive to the needs of our citizens."

Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance said, "Virginia's transportation system is finally receiving the significant investment that will not only improve the travel experience for the millions who depend upon Virginia's roads and transit systems each day, but it will support much-needed jobs for construction professionals throughout the Commonwealth. The transportation construction industry is a major economic driver and provider of employment in Virginia that has struggled because we have neglected our responsibility to invest in the Commonwealth's infrastructure for so long. The legislation signed today will help Virginia's economy to once again thrive."

The legislation, which passed with the broad bipartisan support of Democrats and Republicans in both bodies of the General Assembly, uses several financing mechanisms that will enable the Commonwealth to take advantage of historically low interest rates on bonds and construction bids that are coming in well below project estimates.

The legislation:

Accelerates the issuance of $200 million of Capital Project Revenue Bonds authorized by the General Assembly in 2007 during fiscal year 2012 and $300 million in fiscal year 2013, thereby enabling VDOT to issue $1.8 billion in bonds over the next three years
Authorizes the issuance of $1.1 billion in federally backed Direct GARVEE Bonds to better leverage the Commonwealth's annual federal allocation and support the construction of major congestion reducing projects throughout Virginia
Creates a new Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, initially funded with $283 million from the fiscal year 2010 surplus and savings from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) performance audit, to make low-interest loans and grants to localities, transportation authorities and private-sector partners for transportation projects. The administration aims to put $1 billion into the bank through a number of mechanisms over the next three years.
Governor McDonnell also signed several pieces of legislation designed to create new efficiencies and reduce the costs of VDOT's policies and programs.

Included in the reform legislation is a measure to allow use of inmate labor at the Commonwealth's rest areas, which will reduce the cost of maintaining and operating these vital facilities.

Other measures include:

Increasing the initial contract term for professional services
Increasing the contract award limit for the VDOT commissioner
Enabling the VDOT commissioner to dispose of surplus right of way without the prior approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board
Allowing VDOT to submit one comprehensive annual report
Repealing several outdated laws and regulations

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