Deficit will affect transportation

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

It’s too early to tell how the state budget shortfall will affect Suffolk transportation projects, said the state’s transportation secretary.

“We’ve cut just about everything,” Pierce R. Homer said.

However, Suffolk’s portion of the budget will not be released until the urban allocations are done. The urban allocations are for cities, like Suffolk, that have taken over road maintenance from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Dana Dickens, former mayor of Suffolk and a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said the urban allocations likely will suffer from the same shortfalls as the rest of the budget.

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“I can say with some certainty that it’s probably going to be less than it was last year,” Dickens said.

In Virginia, six-year transportation revenues are down by $1.1 billion from a year ago, according to information posted on The shortfall will result in a 44 percent reduction in funding for primary, secondary and urban highway construction, and a 10 percent reduction in transit allocations.

The deficiency is tied to the harsh economic climate, Homer said.

“It’s because people are buying less gas, they have largely stopped buying new and used cars, and they’re buying fewer consumer goods,” Homer said. All of those categories support transportation through taxes and fees.

“Transportation revenues are directly connected to economic activity, and there’s severely diminished economic activity in Virginia and nationwide.”

Anticipating the budget deficit, Suffolk Budget Officer Anne Seward included almost no money from the Virginia Department of Transportation in a preliminary 10-year capital improvements plan for 2010-1019.