The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has signed off on the first list of projects to receive funding from the new local taxes and fees dedicated to transportation.
The Virginia General Assembly approved an additional sales tax and some other fee increases in Northern Virginia localities that will be dedicated to road and transit improvements, aimed at relieving the area’s traffic congestion.
The NVTA, which is charged with deciding which regional projects receive funding, is expecting about $190 million in the first year of the new taxes and fees.
On Wednesday night, the authority approved a list of $116 million in projects to receive cash funding and an additional $91 million that will be funded by bonds.
“Infrastructure improvements are critical to the continued success of our region,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large), who represents the county on the NVTA. “This initial package of projects will make a difference in people’s lives across the region.”
Before issuing bonds, the authority will first go through a bond validation suit, a process used to get a court endorsement that the revenue source used to back the bonds is legal.
Speaking at the final public hearing leading up to the authority’s vote, multiple speakers urged the authority not to rush into its decision on projects and asked authority members to take more time to consider the project list.
The authority did hold multiple public hearings and public meetings throughout Northern Virginia over the last few months, as well as getting input on projects from its member jurisdictions.
A primary concern for those asking the authority to take more time was the inclusion of funding for items like bus shelters and sidewalks.
Such items, “while important, are more appropriate for the local funding,” said Mark Trostle, president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association. In addition to the regional funding going to NVTA, each Northern Virginia jurisdiction is receiving funds to spend at their discretion, as well.
“Elevating those to the level of regional projects sets an unfortunate early precedent,” Trostle said, one of several speakers to make a similar argument during the hearing.
In addition to voting on the projects, the authority also named an interim executive director, John Mason. Mason served as the organization’s executive director in 2007 and 2008, when the authority momentarily had state funding to work with, and is a former mayor of the city of Fairfax.
NVTA Chairman Marty Nohe, who is also a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, thanked member jurisdictions’ transportation staff members who have supported the authority, on top of their normal work duties, in the absence of having NVTA staff.
“The work has been unbelievable,” he said.