Working together, finally

Published 9:01 am Saturday, January 17, 2015

With the heavy lifting of comprehensive transportation legislation having been accomplished a couple of years ago — and with Virginia municipalities and the commonwealth’s two new transportation authorities already receiving highway funds they would never have gotten as a result of that legislation — attention has shifted this year to tweaks in the funding stream designed to get more money more quickly to projects that have major significance to the commonwealth.

Under the old system, funds were given directly to the localities but broken up in such a manner that it took years for one locality to get enough money to do anything.

But as part of an omnibus transportation package developed jointly by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Delegate Chris Jones (R-76), the transportation funding formula would be updated to put the emphasis on projects, rather than geography. The idea is that a dilapidated bridge on a major thoroughfare in the western part of Virginia might very well be more pressing a need in a particular year than resurfacing of country roads in a more populous part of the state.

Under the bipartisan proposal, 40 percent of Virginia’s transportation funds would go to the rehabilitation of structurally deficient bridges and deteriorating pavement. Another 30 percent would go to projects of statewide significance, scored by an objective analysis and then chosen by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The final 30 percent would go to VDOT’s district offices, where localities could compete for it regionally.

It’s a sensible way of looking at transportation funding, one that rightly puts the emphasis on projects, rather than politics, and it’s the kind of solution smart people can arrive at when they put aside their differences to try to accomplish something aside from scoring political points against each other.