Lack of transportation plan curbs roads spending 44 percent

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by Jessica Sabbath

State highways will receive 44 percent less funding over the next six years, according to a new plan by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The department’s six-year transportation plan is expected to have a $1.1 billion shortfall because of the slowing economy and the repeal of the abusive driver fees, which were estimated to bring in $300 million over the period.

The plan also calls for a 10 percent reduction in transit funding.

“We continue our focus on safety and projects in the pipeline to make the most of the funds we have available,” Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer said in a statement. “Our primary and local roads will take the hardest hit because they are funded last and with state dollars.”

Under state law, existing roads must be maintained before new roads can be built.

VDOT will hold public hearings around the state on the plans. It will work with local leaders to prioritize projects to be completed with funds that have almost been cut in half.

Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads were also hit by a state Supreme Court decision that ruled their transportation authorities’ tax-raising powers unconstitutional. The authorities, designed by the General Assembly in 2007, would have raised regional taxes to pay for regional projects.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is likely to call a special session for May or June to discuss new transportation funding.

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