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Letter to Budget Conferees: Support Responsible Transportation Spending

February 28, 2014

Dear Members of the Committee of Conference on the Budget:

We are writing to express our support for Budget Item 427#1h, which affects future spending of transportation monies by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). If adopted, this provision would ensure that projects selected for funding in fiscal year 2015 and 2016 have been evaluated and prioritized pursuant to § 33.1-13.03:1 of the Code. Attached are clarifying improvements we hope the conferees will consider.

HB 2313 exempted transit projects from the evaluation and testing because the analysis system had not yet been developed. That system, which is crucial to determine where monies should be spent to yield the highest return in terms of congestion relief, is now ready.  Requiring transit projects only to “increase capacity” allows taxpayers dollars paid through new regional taxes to be spent on projects that may have little congestion relief value. A few days ago, the NVTA nominated 52 projects, totaling approximately $770 million, as candidates for FY 2014 to FY 2016 regional transportation funding. Thirty-three projects are highway investments totaling $423,452,810 and nineteen are transit investments totaling $346,166,000. 

The highway projects (55% of funding) will be evaluated by a two-tiered process to ensure they are regionally significant and measure the degree to which they reduce daily congestion and improve mobility in time of a homeland security emergency incident. This is a proper way to treat taxpayer dollars. The transit projects (45% of funding) will not be evaluated for regional significance or congestion reduction if Budget Item 427#1h is withdrawn. 

State law does not require mass transit projects that increase capacity to be evaluated for regional significance or congestion reduction potential. However, earning the taxpayers' trust and confidence that all regional transportation funds are being well-invested dictates that they should be, which is why we support Budget Item 427#1h.

Northern Virginia has severe traffic congestion. The passage of HB 2313 in 2013 has ensured a stable flow of revenue to fund transportation. Budget Item 427#1h will ensure that revenue is spent wisely.  

Sincerely,

Members of the Virginia General Assembly

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