The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has adopted the final Six-Year Improvement Program, which is $1 billion less than the program approved last year, leaving little or no growth in new highway improvements. The program allocates $6.3 billion to study, design or build transportation projects – including highway construction, rail and public transit – over the next six years, beginning July 1, 2004. The program approved last year was $7.4 billion.
“The board continues to deliver a realistic transportation program that is based on strong fiscal discipline,” said Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement. “While the state revenue picture has improved recently, transportation resources such as the gas tax remain flat. That, in combination with rising maintenance costs, depletes funding for new highway projects. An increasing amount of transportation dollars is being absorbed by maintaining what we have, paying off project deficits and taking care of debt.”
“By law, maintaining the current infrastructure of highways and bridges must come before planning or building new projects,” said Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet. “The Virginia Department of Transportation will continue to make the best and most efficient use of the resources it has to maintain the safety of the state’s roadways and deliver projects on time and on budget.”
Shucet explained that as Virginia’s highways have aged, maintenance costs have nearly tripled over the last 18 years. Maintenance needs will continue to absorb construction funds. VDOT will make essential bridge repairs, complete construction projects under way and bring others in the planning stage to an appropriate phase; after that, there will be few major improvements left in the transportation program.
“Public transportation and rail improvements continue to be important priorities for the transportation program,” said Karen Rae, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “This is the first year that rail and public transportation are fully integrated in the six-year program.”
The CTB also approved the final transportation budget for the next fiscal year. It allocates $3.1 billion for all transportation costs, including maintenance and construction of Virginia’s highway system, operations and administration, debt payments and support to ports, aviation and public transportation. After maintenance, debt and other priorities are funded from the budget, remaining revenues go to construction projects in the six-year program.
Maintenance funding has grown from $482 million in 1986 to $1.3 billion in 2005. Maintenance funding will increase to $1.5 billion in 2010. Core construction funding has declined from $964 million in 1998 to $792 million in 2005. It will decrease further to $560 million in 2010.
The six-year program and transportation budget are available on-line at www.VirginiaDOT.org.
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