HJR 519

Commission of the Future of Transportation in Virginia

November 17, 1997, Richmond

After calling the meeting to order, Chairman Robinson yielded the floor to the Secretary of Transportation, who further elaborated his views, expressed at earlier meetings, on the ability of the Commonwealth to meet its transportation needs without a tax increase.

Secretary of Transportation

Speaking of the catalog of transportation needs developed by the commission's Subcommittee on Needs, the secretary began by stressing that he was reacting to a list "not of his making." After reiterating his opposition to new or increased taxes, he pointed to increases in the value of highway maintenance and construction contracts under the present administration, giving credit to increases in federal aid and to a robust state economy. He expressed confidence in additional considerable increases in federal aid under the new federal highway program expected to be enacted by Congress in the early part of 1998. Citing also transportation financing that is likely to result from issuance of private debt to cover projects under the Public-Private Transportation Act, the secretary reminded the members that he never expected Virginia's future transportation revenues to be limited to only those anticipated by the Subcommittee on Needs (and identified in the commission's interim report).

Disagreeing with the commission's decision to endorse an "aggressive" growth scenario for the state's mass transit program, the secretary again stated his opposition to revising the "modal split" of Virginia's transportation revenues or "opening up" the highway construction allocation formulas. Either of these actions, he cautioned, could jeopardize Virginia's "vigorous highway program." Additional net trimming of transportation needs would, he felt, result (i) from "no build" decisions on some projects that either failed to meet environmental criteria or lacked public support and (ii) from breaking up very large projects into phases that could be built and funded incrementally. He also suggested that advances in transportation technology will make possible increases in system capacity without construction of additional facilities.

The commission unanimously gave formal approval to its interim report to the Governor and General Assembly (already printed and distributed as House Document No. 12 of 1998). Staff was instructed to draft a final report of the commission to the Governor and General Assembly, and, if possible, provide a copy of that draft to the members prior to the group's next meeting.

The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold