Northam, Dem leaders highlight plan to modernize transportation system
Gov. Ralph Northam and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly today announced support for a comprehensive transportation package that will improve driver and pedestrian safety and modernize funding for transit, rail, and roads.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw joined the governor for the announcement, along with House Transportation Committee Chair Delores McQuinn and Senate Transportation Committee Chair David Marsden.
“Virginians should be able to get to work or to school safely, without sitting in traffic,” Gov. Northam said. “This bold package will reduce congestion, transform transit and rail service, and support economic growth across Virginia. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass it into law.”
This landmark transportation package will make roads safer by establishing a Virginia Highway Safety Improvement Program and implementing a number of proven safety policies. These measures include prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones while driving, banning open containers of alcohol in vehicles, making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense, enhancing speed enforcement, and allowing localities to lower speed limits.
Combined, they are expected to save more than 120 lives a year.
“In November, Virginians overwhelmingly demanded we take swift, decisive action that improves their lives,” Filler-Corn said. “I am excited to work with the Governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass this legislation that will make our roads safer, commutes shorter, and transform passenger and commuter rail in the Commonwealth.”
Despite Virginians driving more than ever, revenues from motor fuel taxes have continued to drop. This legislation modernizes Virginia’s transportation funding model by cutting vehicle registration fees in half, raising the gas tax, and indexing it to inflation. New revenues will build a sustainable transportation system over the next decade and will be distributed through a new streamlined funding mechanism that supports a multimodal network.
“We know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” Saslaw said. “This bill will ensure we are using taxpayer money efficiently, will save Virginians’ time, and will enhance infrastructure options for moving people and goods throughout the Commonwealth. This measure is long overdue and a much needed path forward to addressing Virginia’s transportation challenges.”
This proposal also includes measures to dramatically transform Virginia’s transit and rail systems. It establishes the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to promote and expand passenger and commuter rail service across the Commonwealth. In coordination with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the legislation authorizes the use of bonds to assist with the construction of a new rail Long Bridge across the Potomac River, increasing capacity for passenger, commuter and freight trains, and reducing congestion. The package also establishes a Transit Incentive Program, which will promote improved transit service, support regional routes, and reduce barriers to transit use by low-income individuals.
“This legislation is the foundation for a true multimodal transportation system,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “By building a sustainable funding bridge to the future, Virginia is making a bold investment in safe, reliable travel options that create mobility for all Virginians.”
The legislation also includes funding to support:
- Smart Scale, the data-driven model for new capacity transportation projects;
- Interstates, secondary and city streets to meet safety and performance targets;
- Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, to help restore funding for regional priorities;
- I-81 Debt Authorization to accelerate $2 billion program of projects; and
- Matching Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) funds for WMATA
- Critical or Special bridges and tunnels