HRTPO Ex Dir: region to see $25 billion in transportation funds
transportation funds

In the next 26 years, 2014 to 2040, Hampton Roads likely will have more than $25 billion to address its transportation issues, from maintenance and replacement to new construction.

Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Executive Director Dwight Farmer delivered that news to organization’s board at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

Farmer said at least $6 billion would be new funding generated regionally because the new transportation law that became effective in July 2013. Another $2.5 billion in state money will flow into the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund, as well, he said.

“This region will have unprecedented amounts of revenue about which it will have to make decisions,” Farmer said to the board.

Farmer said the total was a forecast and his staff would fine tune the numbers with the Virginia Department of Transportation over the next two years, but he does not expect much variation. “They’ve been fairly accurate” in the past, he said. “This is our best guestimate.”

The elected and appointed city and county officials were surprised and asked how staff arrived at the total.

Farmer said the total includes $4 billion in state and federal funds for construction, $12 billion for maintenance, and additional revenue from bonds, local matches and the state.

After the meeting, Farmer said he shared the information with the board because HRTPO staff was working on the region’s long-range transportation plans. Bridges, interstates and tunnels can take up to 30 years to plan and build.

Board Chairman and Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price said Farmer’s revenue forecast was surprising, but good news. He said the region can tackle a range of needed projects with it.

In addition to the revenue forecast, the Board received an update on legislation from Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne. Two bills now under consideration, House Bill 1253 and Senate Bill 513, would create a Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, which would manage regional transportation revenue.

The commission would have about 22 members, most of whom will be the chief executives (mayors and board chairs) of the 14 local governments in the region. For a project to go forward with regional funding, at least two-thirds of the members representing two-thirds of the regional population would have to approve it.

According to the proposed legislation, the commission would have authority to issue bonds and to set tolls. “It would not have the ability to tax,” Layne said. The commission also could negotiate public-private partnerships for regional projects. Many such projects likely would not be high priorities statewide, but of importance to Hampton Roads localities.

The legislation uses the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority as a model for the proposed Hampton Roads commission, Layne said. “The whole idea is to be a financial planning organization,” he said.

The secretary said if the accountability commission legislation is approved and the commission formed, “I believe every major project in Hampton Roads can be going in the next 25 to 30 years.”

The Daily Press