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Arlington Projects to Receive Funding Under New Transportation Bill

Route 50 traffic by pderbyFour transportation projects in Arlington are first in line for funding from the new Virginia transportation bill that went into effect on Monday.

The Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the purchase of four additional ART buses, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, and Boundary Channel Drive- I-395 interchange improvements — which include construction of two roundabouts as well as safety and aesthetic improvements — are under consideration by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to receive funding under the bill, HB2313.

In Fiscal Year 2014, the NVTA is expected to have $190 million to spend, and the authority is considering 32 projects across the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Arlington’s four projects on the list that cost a combined $18.835 million.

County Board member Chris Zimmerman is Arlington’s representative on the NVTA, which is responsible for allocating 70 percent of the expected $1.6 billion in funds the region will receive from HB2313. The remaining 30 percent will be given directly to the localities.

The proposed list, culled by the Project Implementation working group that Zimmerman chairs, costs a total of $186.99 million. The NVTA has indicated in its recent meetings that it will decide to allocate significantly less than that because the $190 million is a projection and no actual revenues have been raised. Even if all four Arlington projects make the final cut, however, the money Arlington is expected to raise will be less than it receives in regional funding, Zimmerman said.

Arlington’s return on investment “is meant to [even out] over time,” Zimmerman clarified when reached by phone earlier this week. “I think all four projects for Arlington are strong regional projects.”

The statute dictates that each locality must receive approximately equal benefit to what it puts in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a dollar in and a dollar out, said Regional Transportation Planning Coordinator Jennifer Fioretti, who has worked closely with Zimmerman for the NVTA.

In addition to the four projects Arlington submitted, the NVTA is considering allocating $5 million to WMATA to continue with Orange Line track improvements and $7 million to purchase 10 new buses, which would be intended to service routes along Wilson Blvd and Columbia Pike, among others.

The county is projected to receive about $11.4 million in direct funding, Zimmerman said, and he expects that to be directed to the county’s Transportation Capital Fund, set up in 2007 to allocate commercial tax revenues to transportation projects. Zimmerman said there has been no discussion about what projects the money would fund at this point.

Through 2018, Arlington is projected to raise $138.2 million for the NVTA and $59.2 million to go toward the Transportation Capital Fund. The money will be raised by the combination of a sales tax increase, a grantor’s tax increase and a Transient Occupancy Tax raise.

The NVTA held a public hearing at Fairfax City Hall on June 20, the first time members of the public could give their take to the gathered representatives, which include Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who also sits on the board. Citizens from Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, as well as representatives from the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance and the Coalition for Smarter Growth gave their take — some angrily — but Arlington’s speakers were few and far between, and didn’t take issue with anything on the list.

A few speakers did mention, however, that they were opposed to the Columbia Pike streetcar project receiving funding, even though the streetcar is not among the projects being considered

“Notwithstanding some of the recent kerfuffle over streetcar, transportation hasn’t generally been controversial in Arlington,” Zimmerman said. “There’s a pretty strong consensus. We don’t have places you could argue about putting new roads. We’re small, geographically speaking, we’re heavily developed; clearly we need more transit and pedestrian facilities and upgrades to existing roadways.”

The Project Implementation working group meets again on Monday, Zimmerman said, and the NVTA is holding another public hearing at 6 p.m. on July 24 in Fairfax City Hall, after which it will vote on the finalized FY2014 project list.

Flickr pool photo by pderby

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