Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2009

SJR 357: Joint Subcommittee Studying the Feasibility of Creating a Regional Rapid Transit Network

June 17, 2009

The Joint Subcommittee to Study Creating a Regional Rapid Transit Network met in Woodbridge on June 17, 2009. Senator Barker, chair of the joint subcommittee, called the meeting to order.


Pierce R. Homer, Virginia Secretary of Transportation
Secretary Homer briefed the members on the state of Virginia's transportation finances, including the impact of federal stimulus funding on mass transit. He reported that:

  • Traffic at the ports of Hampton Roads had declined 22.1% over the last year,
  • Diesel fuel tax collections had declined 14.5% over the same period,
  • Motor vehicle sales tax collections had fallen 28.2%,
  • State recordation tax revenue estimates for fiscal year 2010 were lower than fiscal year 2007 by 47%,
  • Original vehicle registrations were down by 11.4%,
  • Virginia's air carrier capacity had slipped 12%, and
  • The Congressional Budget Office has predicted a $13.5 billion (33%) reduction in federal funds.

On a more positive note, Secretary Homer pointed out that Virginia will receive $810.6 million federal ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds, of which $116.1 million would be used for transit projects. In discussing investments in public transportation and travel demand management, Secretary Homer drew the members' attention to major transit projects (the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project, Richmond bus rapid transit alternatives analysis, and the Norfolk light rail project) in large urban areas that will improve mobility, generate jobs, and promote economic development.

Regarding projects involving the Rail Enhancement Fund and demonstration project, Secretary Homer told the members that $217 million would be spent in the next six years for 14 projects aimed at meeting both freight and passenger rail needs. He urged the members to be aware of the need to identify a reliable and sustainable source of revenue to fund inter-city passenger rail service.

On the subject of bus rapid transit (BRT), Secretary Homer pointed to on-going BRT studies along both the Interstate Route 66 corridor (from Prince William County to the Potomac) and the Interstate Route 95 corridor (from Stafford County to the District of Columbia and around the Capital Beltway).

In concluding, he pointed out that the Commonwealth has $1 billion in deficient highway pavement needs; that, at least for this year, there would be essentially no money flowing through the statutory allocation formula for any construction in the state primary, urban, and secondary highway systems; and that it was unlikely that there would be sufficient revenue to permit the issuance of the transportation bonds provided for in House Bill 3202 (2007) until at least 2010 or even 2011.

In a discussion among the members, Senator Colgan suggested that it might be appropriate for the General Assembly to consider repeal of the Workforce Transition Act.

Steve Del Giudice, Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief
Mr. Del Giudice spoke on the Columbia Pike Streetcar project. He explained that the project, which is a cooperative effort involving both Arlington and Fairfax Counties, aims to develop an advanced transit system that will increase mobility and serve the emerging transit market between the Pentagon/Pentagon City area and Bailey’s Crossroads, as well as support Arlington and Fairfax Counties’ land use and redevelopment initiatives for the corridor. This coordination between transportation and land use planning has been a distinguishing feature of the project from the outset. He explained that environmental studies and preliminary engineering for the project would begin soon, and that actual construction would probably begin in about two years, with regular service to start in 2014 or 2015.

Public Comment

Mr. Tom Hirst briefly took the floor to urge the joint subcommittee to take action to increase the capacity of existing highway infrastructure by using bus rapid transit and other forms of mass transit.

Next Meeting

Chairman Barker announced his intention to hold three more meetings of the joint subcommittee before the end of the year: one in early September, one in early October, and the last in November, following the elections. He stated his desire to hear from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and from the Northern Virginia metropolitan planning organization before considering findings and recommendations to be presented to the Governor and the 2010 Session of the General Assembly. The suggestion was made that it might be good to learn more about how Virginia's transportation and transit planning affects military installations in the Commonwealth and the businesses dependent upon those installations from the perspective of making these places into mass transit hubs. The Chairman invited members to share with him and with staff any other suggestions they might have for the agendas of future meetings.

The Hon. George L. Barker

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2009