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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mason District residents weigh in on transportation funding

By Roger Hoskin and Carol Turner

Mason District residents offered some creative solutions to Fairfax County officials Oct. 1 at a lively community outreach meeting on transportation funding.

There’s a $3 billion deficit, so the county is holding a series of meeting to determine how local residents feel about the possibility of new taxes to pay for transportation projects. The county has identified several possible revenue sources and urges residents to take an online survey by Oct. 15, 4:30 p.m.

At the Mason meeting, Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, laid out in stark reality the challenges facing the county: He gave a similar presentation last week at a meeting in West Springfield.

Available federal funds have already been allocated through 2018 and the outlook for addition federal funding beyond that is bleak. Commonwealth funding for local secondary roads (with route numbers above 600) has fallen from $29 million in 2004 to zero in 2010. By 2017, all state transportation funds will be used for maintenance, and there will be no funds available for matching federal highway construction funds.  Furthermore, state funding for transit is flat, despite growing needs.

The county projects a need for $8.1 billion for transportation projects over the next 10 years, while existing revenue sources are expected to generate only $5.1 billion over that period, resulting in a $3 billion deficit—$300 million a year—which will need to be financed by local sources.

The $8.1 billion in needs is for added capacity to existing roads and improvements in transit service. It does not include any expansion in Metrorail or further freeway extensions.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova told the 40 or so community members at the meeting that the county is facing a dire situation and  something has to be done or there will be no money for transportation projects. State Sen. Dave Marsden, a member of the Transportation Committee, said the General Assembly is not likely to provide more revenue to Northern Virginia.

One member of the audience asked whether the funds raised from a new revenue stream would be dedicated to transportation or mixed with other county funds. It depends on the mechanism used for collecting the revenue, Biesiadny said, but it is the Board of Supervisors’ intention to have these fund only go for transportation projects.

Another local resident urged the county to “clean up all the multiple-family houses.” If that were done, there would be fewer people who use the roads and county services, she said, saving money that could be used for transportation.  County budgets for schools, parks, and other programs are inflated and could be reduced, with the funding diverted to transportation, someone else suggested.

Another resident asked why the county doesn’t take over the roads from VDOT, which isn’t spending enough on maintenance. Mason Supervisor Penny Gross said the county would need an additional $60 million from the state and would also have to take responsibility for VDOT employees and aging equipment.  The audience member said former VDOT employees are already working for FCDOT, the county has  taken VDOT equipment, and will not be getting any money from Richmond because the rest of Virginia does not want to provide more funding to Northern Virginia.

Another idea cited at the meeting was the use of  cameras to catch motorists speeding and running red lights. The person who brought that up said the District raised over $100 million last year using those cameras.

The county’s Transportation Advisory Commission has identified possible sources of added revenue, but no decisions have been made, and there is no “agenda.” 

Doing nothing or curtailing projects to stay within the existing $5.1 billion in identified revenue remains an option.

Additional county meetings on transportation funding are scheduled for Oct. 9 in McLean, Oct. 10 in Vienna, and Oct. 11 in Mount Vernon and Burke. The Burke meeting, for residents of the Braddock District, will be at 7 p.m. in the Kings Park Library, 9000 Burke Lake Road.

5 comments:

  1. Enforce the laws and get rid of the illegals taking entitlements and overburdening our schools.

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  2. Cut school budgets and establish a charter school to challenge the others - make em sweat the competition. If they don't make the grade, open another. The problem with govt is they have no real competition to challenge them and they become inefficient.

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  3. You forgot to mention in this article that citizens want the County to cut its own budget, which is bloated and geared toward a sanctuary city, in order to pay for improvements -- we already pay enough. 3.5 billion to exact.

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  4. I would fully support speed cameras, crosswalk cameras, and red light cameras to slow down the commuter traffic to make it safer for kids. Kids should be encouraged to walk or bike to school.

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  5. I absolutely agree. Many of our residential streets have become super highways. Cameras would bring in revenue, put the speeders in check, our roads would be safer, and pedestrians and cyclists can confidentally reclaim our neighborhood streets. This is a no brainer!

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