Virginia Cuts $1B From Budget, Puts Jobs on Hold

Mon July 19, 2004 - Southeast Edition

On June 17, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) adopted the final Six-Year Improvement Program, which is $1 billion less than the program approved last year, leaving little or no growth in new highway improvements.

The program allocates $6.3 billion to study, design or build transportation projects –– including highway construction, rail and public transit –– over the next six years. The program approved last year was $7.4 billion.

“The board continues to deliver a realistic transportation program that is based on strong fiscal discipline,” said Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement. “While the state revenue picture has improved recently, transportation resources such as the gas tax remain flat. That, in combination with rising maintenance costs, depletes funding for new highway projects. An increasing amount of transportation dollars is being absorbed by maintaining what we have, paying off project deficits and taking care of debt.”

“By law, maintaining the current infrastructure of highways and bridges must come before planning or building new projects,” said Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet. “The Virginia Department of Transportation will continue to make the best and most efficient use of the resources it has to maintain the safety of the state’s roadways and deliver projects on time and on budget.”

Shucet explained that as Virginia’s highways have aged, maintenance costs have nearly tripled over the last 18 years. Maintenance needs will continue to absorb construction funds. VDOT will make essential bridge repairs, complete construction projects under way and bring others in the planning stage to an appropriate phase; after that, there will be few major improvements left in the transportation program.

“Public transportation and rail improvements continue to be important priorities for the transportation program,” said Karen Rae, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “This is the first year that rail and public transportation are fully integrated in the six-year program.”

The CTB also approved the final transportation budget for the next fiscal year. It allocates $3.1 billion for all transportation costs, including maintenance and construction of Virginia’s highway system, operations and administration, debt payments and support to ports, aviation and public transportation. After maintenance, debt and other priorities are funded from the budget, remaining revenues go to construction projects in the six-year program.

Maintenance funding has grown from $482 million in 1986 to $1.3 billion in 2005. Maintenance funding will increase to $1.5 billion in 2010. Core construction funding has declined from $964 million in 1998 to $792 million in 2005. It will decrease further to $560 million in 2010.

Program Breakdown

• $1 billion – public transportation

• $5.3 billion – highway construction and other transportation programs

• $6.3 billion – total for six years – FY 2005 to FY 2010

• Last year’s program was $7.4 billion.

Reduced Projects

Funding is delayed for many primary, secondary and urban projects in the planning stages. Funding is not available in this program to advance many of those projects to the construction phase. Funding remains the same for interstate projects.

New Projects

In general, new projects are not added, with the exception of safety projects and bridge improvements. Among the bridge projects are the Huguenot Bridge in Richmond; the Judith Stewart Dresser Memorial Bridge that carries Route 5 over the Chickahominy River in Charles City County; the Chincoteague Channel and Black Narrows Bridge in Accomack County; and the Gilmerton Bridge in Chesapeake.

Key Ongoing Projects

• Northern Virginia: Springfield Interchange, Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Route 28 improvements

• Richmond area –– Route 288 extension

• Hampton Roads –– Pinners Point Interchange, the I-64 widening in Hampton and Route 17 improvements

• Lynchburg –– Route 29 Madison Heights Bypass

• Southern Virginia –– Route 58 improvements

• Bristol region –– Coalfields Expressway design work

• Western Virginia –– I-81 corridor study

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AP Photo: Construction cranes are idle at the site of an unfinished flyover at the Springfield “Mixing Bowl,” where Interstate 95 and Interstate 395 converge, in Springfield on Aug. 17, 2003. On June 17, 2004, the Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted the final Six-Year Improvement Program, which is $1 billion less than the program approved last year, leaving little or no growth in new highway improvements. (2003)