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State Makes Cuts in Transportation Funding

Fairfax County projects cut by $121 million.

Several road projects in Fairfax County will not be funded this year after the General Assembly decided against increasing the amount of money allocated to transportation last session. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), the state's policy-making body for transportation, voted June 17 to cut $1 billion from its six-year plan for transportation improvement projects statewide, $121 million of that to come from Fairfax County. The six-year plan, which the CTB votes on every year, is intended to prioritize projects for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The cut projects include improvements to the I-66 and I-495 interchange, improvements to the intersection of Gallows Road and Route 29 and sidewalk improvements in Tysons Corner.

"We've had to delay funding on many urban primary and secondary projects," said VDOT spokesperson Tamara Neale. "Our maintenance costs are rising, our debt is growing and we have to pay for that first before we pay for construction."

Among the Fairfax County projects that did receive funding are pedestrian improvements and projects on I-95 and I-66.

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY did not include new money for transportation in an attempt to balance the state budget that lawmakers passed in May after an extended, divisive session.

"We can only hope that transportation is an issue that gets addressed in the next session of the General Assembly in a significant way," said Board Chairman Gerry Connolly (D).

Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), said: "My one comment is 'Ouch.'"

"The one hope is that maybe the General Assembly will listen better next year," she said.

Denying state funding for the intersection of Route 29 and Gallows Road is particularly troubling to county officials. The intersection, notorious for its backups, has been in line for improvements for about 40 years, said Young Ho Chang, director of the county's Department of Transportation.

"We scaled back the project from an interchange to an intersection," he said.

Earlier this year, the board approved a four-year transportation plan that included completing an upgrade to the intersection with help from the state. Now that state money has been delayed, it is unclear whether that project will be completed within four years.

"We're going to have to take a very close look at it and see if we can salvage that project," said Young Ho Chang.

THE CTB ALSO cut $36 million from secondary road programs, which represents about 24 percent of the secondary road program budget. Those cuts have not been identified yet.

Although secondary roads tend to be smaller than primary roads and interstates, Young Ho Change said many of Fairfax County's secondary roads — such as Braddock Road and West Ox Road - are very heavily used.

"Our secondary roads carry as much as interstates across the state," he said.

Omitting certain road projects from the funding list reflects VDOT's new commitment to living up to its 6-year plan after Gov. Mark Warner (D) instituted reforms at the agency, said Neale.

"A couple years ago the program was up over $10 billion dollars and the year following that we cut it down in the $7 billion range," she said. This year, the total program costs $6.3 billion statewide.

"The programs that we have had since then have been very realistic, very credible programs," she said.