Letter calls for roads fix

Published 1:33 pm Monday, December 24, 2012

A second letter from Virginia’s “Urban Crescent” leaders to state legislators makes a renewed call for a transportation funding solution.

The first letter, sent more than three months ago, presented the dire situation — the state will have no money left for highway construction or to fully match federal funds by 2017.

The new letter, dated Dec. 7, is even more importunate. It demands a new, statewide funding source dedicated to transportation needs that produces enough revenue to address maintenance and new construction.

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The letter stems from a November joint meeting by the Urban Crescent mayors and chairs, as well as business leaders from the Chambers of Commerce. The Urban Crescent communities include those in the Hampton Roads, Petersburg, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia areas.

“The Commonwealth can no longer afford to take a wait-and-see attitude,” the letter states.

It goes on to state that the state’s gasoline tax — currently 17.5 cents per gallon — has not been adjusted for inflation for 26 years, nor has it changed to take into account the “substantial increase in vehicle fuel economy.”

“No other ‘public utility’ in Virginia has gone 26 years without any basic adjustments to its business model,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia has neglected necessary adjustments of the state’s transportation revenue to account for even simple inflation. At this point, only action by the Commonwealth can solve our collective problem.”

The letter was sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell, and the majority and minority leaders of both houses, in addition to 122 senators and delegates who represent the signatory communities. Suffolk’s Mayor Linda T. Johnson was a signatory of the letter.

According to the letter, about $3 billion per year in additional revenue is needed in the Urban Crescent during the next 20 years for major highway and transit construction projects. The state’s Highway Maintenance and Operating fund is insolvent and must seize $500 million per year from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to perform basic maintenance.

The situation is affecting the state’s business, the letter states. In the CNBC rankings of “America’s Top States for Business,” the state’s overall ranking dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, and its ranking for infrastructure and transportation dropped from No. 10 to No. 33.

“The Urban Crescent Mayors and Chairs and the CEOs of the Chambers of Commerce respectfully request that state elected leaders come together to develop an effective business-type approach to solve critical maintenance and construction funding problems,” the letter states.