State funding problems affect local roads

Indecision in the Virginia General Assembly over statewide transportation funding has led to public worry (and fury) from high-volume traffic areas like Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Though Charlottesville may not be the squeakiest wheel in the statewide transportation dilemma, a lack of decision-making will have its impacts here, local officials say.
    “Both the City and County came up short in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s allocation” on the Meadowcreek Parkway, says City Councilor Kevin Lynch. He says the State hasn’t given the City enough funds for new road projects, causing about a $5 million shortfall for the 40-year-old proposed road project, which would create a connector from Rio Road to McIntire Road at the 250 Bypass.
    The County may be in even poorer shape with financing its end of the parkway. County Supervisor Dennis Rooker says making cuts or dipping into other projects may be necessary. “We have to locate $5 million that isn’t presently in the transportation plan,” says Rooker. “It could come out of other projects such as Jarman’s Gap Road, Georgetown Road or the Free State Road Connector.”
    Lynch notes that other important City road projects will be delayed down the pipeline, too. “The real impact on the City is on these projects that come after. The parkway in my opinion is really not the most important project that the City ought to be doing… Hillsdale Drive is much more important to economic viability,” says Lynch.
    There are greater issues about how much money is being flowed out, versus how much comes back for transportation, Lynch says. The City contributes about $13 million a year in federal and State taxes for transportation, but gets back only $5 million for maintenance and new construction, according to Lynch.
    The County also suffers the disparity. “I think if you took it over a 10 year period then we get back substantially less money than we pay into the transportation fund,” says Rooker.
No plans for another special session are in place—the debate will likely continue when the regular session picks up in January 2007. But Charlottesville’s State Delegate, David Toscano, says he’s not hopeful for transportation solutions in the next assembly session. “There’s less opportunity to have much of a solution in the next session because it’s just prior to an election,” says Toscano. “You’re probably going to have to wait an election cycle to see some of the participants change.”

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