Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

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
invited guests.


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 intended.

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 process.

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.


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.

Discussion on Federal Funding

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 been previously.

Delegate Wardrup 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.

Discussion on PPTA

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.

Discussion on 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 capital commitments,
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.


Chairman Wardrup 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. Wardrup, Jr.

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold, Stephanie Bishop, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005 

Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly