When you enter the voting booth on Nov. 4, you’ll be asked to vote Yes or No on a $100 million Fairfax County transportation bond. (Bonds are a form of long-term borrowing to finance public facilities and infrastructure and spread the costs over a long time frame. Virginia law requires that general obligation bonds be approved by voters in a referendum.)
The $100 million bond referendum is one of several funding sources that we can use to finance more than $1.4 billion in our transportation needs over the next six years. While a large part of our transportation funding sources are federal and state, those funds are mostly used for large scale road projects. Should we approve this bond, we’ll be able to finance the kind of small local projects that make a difference in our neighborhoods. These projects include such things as turn lanes, traffic signals, directional signage, and most importantly, missing sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails. They improve neighborhood safety, access to community facilities like schools and transit, and they link neighborhoods. And of course, they relieve traffic congestion.
In 2013, the Board of Supervisors launched a countywide dialogue on transportation projects and held a series of meetings to gather community feedback. Residents could also participate and provide feedback by email, social media, and through an online survey. Overwhelmingly, I heard about the need for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements.
I’m sometimes asked if voting for a bond will result in higher taxes. Actually, it’s the reverse. We’re prudent with our bonds in Fairfax County. Our financial guidelines say that the annual cost of our county’s debt service (principal and interest payments) may not be greater than 10 percent of annual combined general fund disbursements. We also maintain our county’s net long-term debt at or below three percent of the total market value of taxable county property. This careful debt management is one of the reasons for our triple-A bond rating and it’s also why our bonded debt will not contribute to higher local taxes.
As our county grows, so do our transportation infrastructure needs. It’s not enough to build new roads—we’ve also got to invest in all transportation modes. Building only roads and large-scale projects is not good for our neighborhoods, the environment, and public health, nor does it offer options to travelers. Voting Yes on the 2014 transportation bond will be a large step in the right direction. Please vote Yes on Nov. 4.