Virginia's Transportation Funding Crisis to How We Got Here

Tagged in: Advocacy
Virginia's Transportation Funding Crisis  to  How We Got Here

The Washington, D.C. region suffers from the worst traffic congestion in the nation, with drivers spending more than three days out of every 365 caught in traffic,” this according to an extensive study conducted annually by a research group at Texas A&M University and reported Tuesday by the Washington Post.

Also, researchers found the 74 hours the average commuter in this region is stuck in traffic each year burn 37 gallons of fuel; the average cost per area driver at the pump and in lost wages comes to $1,495. Local drivers travel bumper to bumper more than twice the national average of 34 hours, the article stated.

Similarly, according to the same study and reported in Pilotonline.com, Hampton Roads commuters spent about 34 hours delayed in congestion, and the cost of congestion to each driver increased some as well, to $654 in wasted fuel, lost work hours and delays in shipping goods. That's about $50 more than in 2009.

Though there are some efforts across the state underway to relieve congestion, is it enough?

The Current Status - The Commonwealth currently needs a sustained $1 billion annually to successfully address the funding crisis facing Virginia’s transportation industry.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is required by law to transfer money from its construction budget to fund basic transportation maintenance needs, which VDOT has been required to do for nearly a decade.

“To get an idea of how severe the shortage of sustainable revenue has become, take a look at state-generated funding for construction. In 2004, less than 10 percent of the state’s transportation construction budget was diverted for maintenance needs. Today the condition of Virginia’s roads, rails and bridges is so deplorable, and is continuing to deteriorate so fast, that more than 80 percent of funds earmarked for construction each year are diverted to fill potholes, shore up bridges and fix rail lines. Without new and reliable funding dedicated to transportation that will be true for the foreseeable future,” according to a Washington Post editorial this week.

This fiscal year (2011), VDOT transferred more than $400 million from its construction budget to its maintenance budget, and the amount needed for maintenance continues to grow at approximately $50 million a year.

VDOT’s maintenance deficit for fiscal year 2011 is estimated to be $511 million. With a maintenance budget deficit, funding for new, much-needed construction projects or for primary, secondary, urban or unpaved roads statewide is adversely impacted.

The last significant increase in transportation funding took place in 1986, and as a result, the Commonwealth has to fund its increasingly outdated transportation system at funding levels that were established 25 years ago. As the "buying power" of the1986 funding has been reduced by more than 50 percent, the demand on our transportation system will only continue to rise.

Two transportation funding special sessions during the Kaine Administration resulted in failed attempts to implement a transportation funding solution that addresses the Commonwealth's ever-growing funding shortfall, which is conservatively estimated at $1 billion a year.

In September 2010, $1.4 billion in unspent transportation funding was discovered following an audit of VDOT that was issued by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Although helpful, a one-time infusion of funding does not effectively address Virginia's transportation funding crisis.

The 2011 General Assembly funding allocation of $3.2 billion for transportation infrastructure is a start to addressing Virginia’s ongoing transportation funding crisis, but only addresses a small portion of a much larger problem.

How This Affects You - This is an issue that affects us all. Transportation plays a vital role in our daily lives. It connects us with our families, jobs, hospitals and schools. It supports community revitalization, economic development and job growth. A strong system allows Virginians mobility and accessibility, with reduced congestion and multimodal options. It creates a safer and more secure Virginia. A long-term, sustainable transportation funding solution is critical and must be addressed immediately.

How You Can Help -There are many ways you can show your support for a long-term, dedicated and sustainable solution to Virginia’s transportation funding crisis including drafting a letter to the editor to your local newspaper(s) and urging others to get involved. Virginians can show support by contacting their candidates by email through the It’s Time website or by mail to encourage them to address the transportation funding crisis in 2012 by providing $1 billion annually in sustainable and dedicated funding 

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