- Report Published -
|Funding of Unfunded Transportation Projects in Hampton Roads|
|General Assembly; Joint Subcommittee|
|SJR 317 (Regular Session, 2001)|
|I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND.|
Pointing to a broad and deep consensus among elected officials, business leaders, and ordinary citizens in the Hampton Roads region that the region has many transportation needs that have not been met and cannot be met because of a lack of funding, while also realizing that, while there may be considerable agreement on what these projects are, there is much less agreement on how they could be or should be funded, the 2001 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution No. 317. This legislation, offered by Senator Martin E. Williams, established a 16-member joint subcommittee to determine the most desirable and feasible means of making funds available to address the region's unfunded transportation needs. The resolution specifically charged the panel with considering the creation of a regional financing authority. In addition to four members of the Virginia Senate and six members of the House of Delegates, the joint subcommittee included six non-voting citizen members: four residents of Hampton Roads, one representative of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, and one representative of the Mayors and Chairs of Hampton Roads. (A copy of this resolution in attached as Appendix A).
II. JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE ACTIVITIES.
During 2001, the joint subcommittee held four meetings: one in Hampton (July 25), one in Virginia Beach (August 28), one in Norfolk (October 9), and one in Newport News (December 10). At each meeting the panel took testimony from government officials, business leaders, transportation professionals, and interested members of the general public. Representatives and staff of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the Transportation District of Hampton Roads, and the Virginia Department of Transportation were particularly active and helpful in supplying the panel with a wide-ranging assortment of many kinds of pertinent information. The most important information was a list of the region's priority transportation projects (and their costs, estimated at the time of the priority setting process) as agreed to by the region's metropolitan planning organization, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission:
1. The "Third Crossing" of Hampton Roads ($2.4 billion)
• Widen the southern portion of 1-664 to six lanes and northern portion to eight lanes
• Widen the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel to eight lanes and add multimodal lanes
• Construct the East-West Connector (four lanes plus multimodal lanes) from 1-664 to the Intermodal Connector
• Construct the Craney Island Connector (four lanes) from the East-West Connector to the Western Freeway
2. 1-64 (Peninsula) ($400 million)
• Widen to six lanes plus two High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes from Route 199 to 1-664
3. Midtown Tunnel/Martin Luther King (MLK) Freeway ($475 million)
• Increase tunnel to four lanes
• Extend the MLK Freeway from Turnpike Road to 1-264
4. Regional Transit ($2.198 billion)
• Build regional transit project, including light rail, bus, high-speed rail, and ferry projects
5. Route 460 ($500,000 million)
• Construct a limited access highway from Sussex County to the Suffolk Bypass
• Construct five new interchanges between the Suffolk County/Isle of Wight County line and Bowers Hill
6. Southeastern Parkway ($425,000)
• Construct a highway (four lanes plus two HOV lanes) between 1-264 in Virginia Beach and Route 168 in Chesapeake
The total cost of executing this plan (including several additional highway projects not identified in the above list of "priority" projects) in fiscal year 2001-02 dollars equals slightly more than $10 billion. Of this amount, the Planning District Commission estimated that roughly $3.2 billion would have to be raised from local and regional sources. It was suggested these include a combination of a regional motor fuel tax and tolls.
III. LEGISLATIVE OPTIONS CONSIDERED.
At the Chairman's instruction, the panel's staff from the Division of Legislative Services prepared two pieces of draft legislation that were circulated to the members for their review and debated and voted on at succeeding meetings. The first of these drafts would have established a 16-member Hampton Roads Regional Transportation Authority. Its primary function would be to (i) consider the transportation needs of the Authority's constituent localities (ii) identify those needs that could not be addressed in a timely fashion with presently available or reasonably projected financial resources, (iii) determine the amount and appropriate means of raising the additional funds that would be required to meet those "unfunded" needs, and (iv) submit a proposed list of projects and means of funding to the voters for their approval in a referendum. The second draft provided the necessary legal mechanism whereby any taxes or tolls approved by the voters would actually be imposed and collected.
At its December meeting, after considerable discussion both at that meeting and the October meeting, the joint subcommittee decided not to recommend the creation of a regional transportation authority and for bonds for regional transportation projects to be issued by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. (A copy of this rejected draft is attached as Appendix B). Instead, the members agreed to recommend legislation that would, subject to approval of the voters in a referendum, impose a regional sales tax or motor fuels tax that would permit the issuance of bonds whose proceeds would be used to cover the costs of specifically identified regional transportation projects. Specific, complete draft legislation was not endorsed by the panel, but the members did vote to authorize Chairman Williams, in consultation with staff of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and other concerned parties, to present to the 2002 Regular Session of the General Assembly legislation embodying the concepts agreed to at the panel's final meeting. These concepts eventually took the form of Senate Bill No. 668, approved by the General Assembly on April 17, 2002, and signed into law by the Governor as Chapter 853 of the Acts of Assembly of 2002.