House Transportation Committee's Special Subcommittee 4
June 28, 2005
The first meeting
of the HouseTransporation
Committee's Special Subcommittee 4 was held on June 28, 2005. Members
are Leo C. Wardrup, Jr. (Chairman), Mamye E. BaCote, William H. Fralin,
Jr., Joe T. May, Ryan T. McDougle, Thomas Davis Rust, and Jackie T. Stump.
Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer and Acting Commonwealth Transportation
Commissioner Gregory Whirley were
In opening remarks,
Delegate Wardrup explained that as Chairman of the House Committee on
Transportation he had, at the request of the Speaker, established the
present subcommittee to aid the House of Delegates in maintaining its
focus and leadership to ensure that Virginia's transportation program
continues to be reformed, funded, and improved. The Chairman reminded
the members and the audience, that the General Assembly had approved the
most comprehensive package of reforms of Virginia's transportation programs
in more than two decades providing more that $848 million in new revenue
for highways, rail and transit projects, airports, and seaports, as well
as supporting new initiatives regarding the way transportation services
are delivered in the Commonwealth. It will be necessary for the General
Assembly to oversee reform to ensure that it is implemented as the legislature
The oversight process
will involve both the House and the Senate Transportation Committees,
working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The Chairman
pointed out that the Senate had also established a special transportation
program reform subcommittee and that he had been invited to work with
that group as an observer. The subcommittee will review transportation
issues and involve experts from both the private and public sectors in
The Chairman announced
the appointment of Delegates Rust and Fralin to be responsible for recommending
changes in statutory formulas by which revenues dedicated to highway maintenance
and construction are allocated. He noted that the 2005 Session of the
General Assembly postponed the allocation date since projected state transportation
revenues would be inadequate in order to allow the necessary amounts to
be set aside to match federal revenues.
& COMMISSIONER WHIRLEY ADDRESS TRANSPORTATION CONCERNS
Secretary Homer and
Commissioner Whirley answered questions from members of the subcommittee.
Delegate Wardrup asked whether it was true that only a small portion of
the approximately $40 million set aside by the 2005 Session for locally
controlled transportation projects had actually been requested by localities
and what actions VDOT was taking as a result. Secretary Homer explained
that increasing local responsibility for construction projects had begun
with the "First Cities" initiative of 2003, that further 2003
legislation had improved local accountability for urban street payments,
and that he expected this and other local involvement in both construction
and maintenance to increase between now and 2007. He noted that, with
the General Assembly's cooperation, existing project deficits had been
eliminated and prohibited for future projects, VDOT would be receiving
and expending federal funds to support maintenance and operations for
the first time, and the recently created Transportation Partnership Opportunity
Fund and new Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) guidelines would
be implemented by October 1 of this year. He believed that establishment
of the Fund to "jump start" PPTA projects, together with implementation
of the new guidelines would "...create a more stable investment climate..."
and lead to an increase in the number of proposals made to VDOT. He also
mentioned that changes to the PPTA had already attracted a proposal from
the Transurban Group (Fluor Daniels) for construction and operation of
high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes parallel to the Capital Beltway.
Members urged VDOT
and the administration to take full advantage of the power and flexibility
given them under the Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund (established
by the 2005 Session of the General Assembly pursuant to House Bill No.
2793) to encourage the development of design-build transportation projects
and other transportation projects under the Public-Private Transportation
Act. The members encouraged the Commonwealth Transportation Board, in
consultation with the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of
Commerce and Trade, to proceed expeditiously to develop the guidelines
and criteria that would enable the Board to award grants and make loans
from the Fund to stimulate private sector participation in Virginia's
transportation infrastructure improvement program.
Delegate Rust asked
whether use of federal money for maintenance would mean more federal control
of VDOT's maintenance program and whether this would not result in the
creation of still another layer of bureaucracy. Commissioner Whirley responded
that a central issue for the federal government in this matter was the
number of inspectors that would be required for each federally funded
project, requiring a careful determination of which maintenance projects
would be "federal eligible." He observed that the federal government
was currently "more flexible" in these matters than they had
was concerned that Virginia was reported to have nearly $500 million in
unallocated federal balances, and whether these funds need to be obligated
by October of this year. The Secretary replied that this was correct,
that some of these funds might be used for maintenance projects, and hoped
to obligate all of the funds before the close of the fiscal year.
Delegate May asked
whether the PPTA had become "...too public and not enough private."
Secretary Homer felt that there had to be a balance of public and private
involvement, and hoped that the new guidelines would address this issue,
as well as "risk-sharing" between the public and private entities.
This exchange sparked discussion between the Chairman, Secretary Homer,
and several of the members on the desirability of having VDOT more actively
engaged in soliciting PPTA proposals. Delegate May suggested that the
General Assembly should be make clear as to its intentions in this area.
The Secretary offered to share with the subcommittee a draft of its revised
PPTA guidelines for the members' comments before the guidelines were made
final. He suggested that VDOT improve the proposal consideration process
by rejecting unworkable or undesirable proposals earlier than has been
the case in the past.
the Implementation of Transportation Reform
Secretary Homer resumed
his comments on implementation of transportation reform legislation approved
by the 2005 Session of the General Assembly, by pointing out that rail
funding guidelines would be implemented by October 1 and that transit
local partnerships, and expanded revenue sharing programs were underway.
He hoped that these changes would eventually lead to production of statewide
rail and multi-modal transportation plans. Commissioner Whirley added
that VDOT is in transition, using increased out-sourcing, privatization,
asset management, and decentralization to evolve from "doing the
work" to "managing a
Secretary Homer concluded
his remarks by returning to the subject of public-private partnerships.
He felt that reform had laid a legislative foundation that could successfully
be built upon through issuance of new guidelines (available for public
comment in July of this year) providing for a streamlined process, greater
public participation, and an expanded role for the Commonwealth Transportation
Board. He hoped these guidelines would lead to a stable investment climate
and envisioned projects that might involve tolls, special tax districts,
dedicated local revenues of economic assets, and possibly long-term concessions.
On the matter of tolls, Chairman Wardrup suggested that, if done properly,
"toll is no longer a four-letter word," and Delegate May urged
greater use of automated toll collection technologies that are also sensitive
to privacy concerns of the public.
Delegate Fralin inquired
of the Secretary whether any consideration had been given to a PPTA project
structured so that the builder of a highway facility could benefit from
development of adjoining properties. The Secretary replied such a project
had not been considered.
Mr. Peter Easter
hoped that the subcommittee would focus on Virginia's transportation needs
first, and then on ways to meet those needs. He doubted whether these
needs could be met through increased taxes, and suggested that tolls are
the ultimate user fee.
FUTURE WORK PLAN
AND NEXT MEETING
announced his intention to appoint a group of members of the subcommittee
to work with VDOT in considering PPTA issues. A planned briefing by Ms.
Anne Oman of the House Appropriations Committee staff on transportation
revenues and funding formulas was postponed until the next meeting on
August 29, 2005, in Richmond.
The Hon. Leo C.
Alan Wambold, Stephanie
Bishop, DLS Staff