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What’s in Virginia’s transportation spending plan?

Photo by DearEdward via Creative Commons.
Photo by DearEdward via Creative Commons
Photo by DearEdward via Creative Commons.

This story was reported and written by our media partner the Virginia Mercury

Virginia’s latest spending plan includes efforts to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to a prominent transportation agency in Northern Virginia, toll relief in Hampton Roads and highway widening along a stretch of Interstate 81 in Southwest Virginia.

The state budget adopted in May includes a stark change from one of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s transportation-related amendments: the newly enacted budget allows the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — the regional body of jurisdictions responsible for funding the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) — to keep its trust fund intact.

Late in the months-long budget deliberations, Youngkin proposed additional funding for Metro, but it would’ve stripped money from NVTC’s investment fund that’s used by Northern Virginia jurisdictions. The governor eventually agreed with lawmakers on a spending plan that didn’t dip into NVTC’s fund.

“It’s a step forward and it’s a credit to the legislature as well as the governor for coming together,” said Matt de Ferranti, the commission’s chair. “[We’re] also quite lucky that the economy has been going so well that we’re able to have the funding; this means that the plans that all the Northern Virginia jurisdictions in NVTC had for spending the money can now be followed through on.”

Funding from the trust, de Ferranti said, will help pay for road and bike lane projects in the region.

As for Metro, de Ferranti said Metro has made some significant decisions to address the projected $750 million shortfall. He noted that leaders now have to work with the agency to address the long-term funding challenges for Metro, which is the “economic backbone of this state.”

During this year’s legislative session, Metro asked legislators to consider taking action by adjusting the 3% cap on annual state funds provided to Metro, which prevents jurisdictions from overpaying.

According to a report prepared by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Metro, over the past three years, provided Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. a credit of $196 million due to jurisdictions’ unclear funding during the pandemic. The agency also waived the 6% annual increase over two years and reduced the baseline subsidy levels for subsequent budgets.

MWCOG found that the subsidy payments did not account for the “historic levels of inflation” and increased costs stemming from labor agreements, which resulted in an additional deficit of about $266 million.


Metro received millions in additional funding from Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. to meet the projected shortfall threatening services and jobs.

Virginia’s spending plan includes $144.7 million in additional funding for Metro that temporarily suspends the 3% cap that was enacted in 2018.

“We appreciate the collaboration of our regional partners on this board-approved budget that will keep our community moving,” said Randy Clarke, Metro General Manager and CEO, in a statement. “This region is a great place to live, work, and play, and our recent ridership reflects the vital role Metro plays in getting people where they need to go.”

The agency says it has found $50 million in cost efficiencies, but will also be increasing fares by 12.5%, which keeps fares in line with inflation.

In April, Metro adopted a $4.8 billion capital and operating budget. Officials in the region offered a plan for helping to address funding needs for the agency in the short and long term.

“I am proud of the historic, bipartisan budget last month that invests in highways and public transit across Virginia,” said House Transportation Chair Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, in a statement.

She said the investments mean Virginians can get where they’re going “safely and on time,” and will help address WMATA’s short-term funding needs. Delaney said another measure she is proud to support is the establishment of the Northern Virginia Growing Needs of Public Transit Joint Subcommittee, which will study long-term, sustainable, dedicated operations and capital funding for Metro.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the subcommittee and in the General Assembly to finally present a plan that prioritizes long-term reliability to the public,” she said.

Toll relief

After budget discussions, lawmakers kept their original relief package for toll users in Hampton Roads by dedicating $101 million in budget funds over the next two years to support discounted tolls for eligible drivers earning less than $50,000 annually.

Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, campaigned on a relief package which, when combined with the state’s existing Toll Relief program, could net eligible drivers a 100% toll rebate for up to 14 trips per week through the Elizabeth River Tunnels until 2036.

I-81 widening

Virginia has its eyes set on expediting the widening of a much-used corridor of Interstate 81 in the Salem area.

The budget lawmakers approved provides $70 million in fiscal year 2025 and additional language that designates up to $175 million from year-end revenue surpluses for the I-81 improvement program for the next three fiscal years.

The 325-mile corridor connects dozens of communities, colleges and universities, and is key to transporting freight.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, nearly 50% of the state’s value of goods are transported through the corridor, which has the highest per capita truck volume in the commonwealth.

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