Virginia’s economic prosperity will soon come under threat unless its highway and transit systems are solidly funded. There are a variety of options to secure that funding and legislators must begin to make hard decisions. That is the heart of the article written by a longtime state transportation analyst, Bob Chase, who is president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.
Since 2002 over $4 billion in state and federal funds originally intended for construction have been diverted to maintenance purposes, Chase writes. Simply maintaining the roads requires more resources than are available in Virginia’s Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. Legislative inaction has resulted in annual raids on the Transportation Trust Fund for construction just to pay for maintenance.
He proposes five broad-based solutions: (1) raise the 17.5 cent motor fuels tax that hasn’t been changed in nearly 25 years; (2) increase the general sales and use tax and dedicate the new revenue to transportation; (3) increase the 3 percent motor vehicle sales and use tax levied on new and used vehicle purchases; (4) impose a surtax on the individual income tax and reserve the new funds for transportation; and (5) enact a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax.
In addition to broad-based solutions, Chase examines several supplemental funding solutions which would help, but individually and collectively would fail to raise the necessary funds. Such supplemental solutions include (1) changing the allocation formula; (2) bond financing; (3) expansion of Public Private Partnerships; (4) more highway tolls; and (5) building up the Virginia Transportation Infrastucture Bank.
According to Chase, “Better transportation benefits everyone and everyone needs to contribute more to the solution.”