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Virginia Likely to Delay, Cut Projects

On Thursday, the Virginia panel that presides over transportation projects is likely to delay a lot of them, or drop them from the six-year schedule. This will hurt most travelers in the state, whether they drive, take transit, pedal or walk.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will meet in Richmond to vote on the draft six-year improvement program presented by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Here's a list of the delays and cuts likely in Northern Virginia.

These are among the road projects on the list to be delayed:
-- Widening of the Route 7 bypass in Leesburg.
-- An interchange at the junction of Routes 1 and 123 in Prince William.
-- An interchange at Route 28 and Wellington Road in to eliminate the at-grade rail crossing in Manassas.

These are among the road projects that would be cut:
-- Reconstruction of the Beltway/Interstate 66 interchange.
-- Widening the Beltway from Telegraph Road to Interstate 395.
-- Widening I-66 from four to eight lanes between Route 29 in Gainesville and Route 15 in Haymarket.

But wait, there's more. The list also includes projects that would have been funded with the aid of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which now has no money because the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the funding formula approved by the General Assembly last year.

Here's a sampler:
-- Traffic calming measures for Route 50 in Aldie would be delayed.
-- Dedicated funding for Metro and VRE would be cut. ("Dedicated funding" means that governments give their transit agencies a significant and steady source of revenue they can count on, year in and year out.)
-- New locomotives for VRE.
-- New park and ride lots.
-- Columbia Pike streetcar construction.
-- Citywide sidewalk replacement and construction in Falls Church.

The entire list of delays and cuts in Northern Virginia contains 103 projects. Statewide, it's a billion dollar reduction in the original plan. It's not only the court decision negating much of what the General Assembly did last year. VDOT also doesn't have as much money as it hoped it would, because of the slowing economy, which cuts into state revenues. And projects are getting more expensive because the cost of the material is rising.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) has called the assembly back for a special session on transportation that starts Monday. Kaine has made proposals of his own. We'll be looking at them and some alternatives offered by legislators.

So far, I haven't heard anyone who cares about transportation improvements predicting success during this session, so those delays and cuts are likely to stand.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 17, 2008; 6:27 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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