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Friday, October 12, 2012

Transportation funding: Lots of complaints, few solutions

Little River Turnpike in Annandale.

At the final meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ outreach sessions on transportation funding last night, residents of the Braddock District had plenty to complain about but offered few solutions on how Fairfax County should pay for road improvements.

Here’s a sampling of citizens’ comments:

  • The county shouldn’t be paying for mass transit; those systems should be able to pay for themselves.
  • The county should look at the impact of proposed transportation improvements on the potential for increased business.
  • The design of exits on the beltway favors drives who use the Express lanes, while other drivers on the general-purpose lanes will face more congestion when they get off the beltway.
  • It doesn’t make sense for Route 236 not have access to the Express Lanes; that is going to result in more traffic on Wakefield Chapel Drive as people will try to get on the beltway at Braddock Road instead of 236.
  • Traffic lights aren’t timed right

The outreach sessions were convened to seek public input on new revenue sources to pay for transportation funding. At the Braddock meeting, Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, gave the same basic presentation that he delivered at earlier meetings, including sessions in the West Springfield and Mason districts.

In a nutshell: The state has failed to provide enough funding. By 2017, or even earlier, the state won’t have enough money to match federal funding. Fairfax County needs $8.1 billion for projects to expand road capacity and relieve traffic congestion over the next 10 years, but expects to receive only $5.1 billion from existing sources. As a result, there’s an expected shortfall of $3 billion—or $300 million a year over the next 10 years.

The county has outlined a list of new revenue sources to make up for that shortfall and is seeking input from residents on which one they prefer - or whether people would rather live with worsening traffic congestion than pay higher taxes.

Some of the proposed tax increases can be authorized by the Board of Supervisors, such as increasing the personal property tax, real estate tax, and commercial and industrial tax rate. In the case of an income tax or meals tax, the board has the authority to initiate a referendum.

Other options would require authorization by the General Assembly, such as increasing the sales tax or gas tax or imposing a tax on hotels, vehicle rentals, or vehicle miles traveled.

At the Braddock meeting,  someone suggested requiring developers to contribute more to transportation improvements.

Biesiadny noted that if developers want the county to rezone their property, the county negotiates proffers, which calls for them to pay for roads, schools, or other facilities. If the development is by-right, “there is no mechanism for the board to assess developers,” he said. [Developers already contribute funding for roads in three areas: Fairfax Center, Centreville, and Tysons Corner.]

“Developers will only build a project that makes a profit,” added Braddock Supervisor John Cook. If the county tries to make developers pay too much, they will build in Loudoun County or elsewhere, he said.

“If we do nothing, congestion will continue. The only way to discourage more people from moving here is to make it an unattractive place to live. That is counterproductive,” Cook said. “There are no easy answers.”


  1. I was at the Mason meeting and asked why the 3.5 billion dollar budget of the County could not handle improvements? For every 1 percent of that budget that can be cut, 30 million can be alloted to transportation. Why of the 21 options given on the county's survey are 19 of them taxes or fees? Why don't they clean their own house, stop making Fairfax County a sancutuary city and realize that we are in a recession and they need to tighten their belt too, instead of always reaching into our pockets. They misuse their funds and therefore this problem lies squarely at the feet of the BOS.

  2. The BOS will NEVER take responsibility for their own actions. The BOS still claims they cut taxes in the 2000s versus effectively allowing them to raise over 100% from 2002 to 2007. They spent all the money and then claim they are poor when the recession hits in 2008. They close the libraries early, threaten additional fee's in education in an effort to scare the public into paying a higher tax rate versus taking away the high school band. Like the high school band is the problem. When you can't trust your elected officials, and somehow they keep getting re-elected, you have a big problem. Oh well, if they keep people stupid, they will keep getting re-elected. Not much incentive for some politicians to change.