The part­ner­ship that can fix Vir­ginia’s roads

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY MARK SICK­LES AND MITCH WEIN­TRAUB Mark Sick­les, a Demo­crat, rep­re­sents the 43rd Dis­trict in the Vir­ginia House. Mitch Wein­traub is chair­man of the Fair­fax County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

North­ern Vir­ginia con­tin­ues to suf­fer un­bear­able traf­fic con­ges­tion. Af­ter decades of un­der­in­vest­ing dur­ing pe­ri­ods of ex­tra­or­di­nary growth and de­spite key fed­eral ear­marks pro­vid­ing ma­jor pro­ject re­lief in the 2000s, Vir­ginia has been un­able to de­velop a func­tion­ing trans­porta­tion net­work.

In 2013, with the un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of the busi­ness com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the Fair­fax County Cham­ber of Com­merce, a bi­par­ti­san ma­jor­ity in the Gen­eral Assem­bly passed a longterm trans­porta­tion fund­ing mea­sure to help get North­ern Vir­ginia mov­ing and to re­pair the sub­stan­dard pave­ment in ev­ery cor­ner of our plan­ning dis­trict.

Our needs are so great, how­ever, that ev­ery­one is jus­ti­fi­ably in­tent on mak­ing sure our new rev­enue is put to its most ra­tio­nal and ef­fi­cient use.

As North­ern Vir­ginia busi­nesses con­tinue to see a re­duc­tion in fed­eral spend­ing, a work­ing trans­porta­tion sys­tem is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to draw non-fed­er­ally de­pen­dent busi­nesses here and to safe­guard our long-term suc­cess.

One clogged cor­ri­dor that must be ad­dressed is In­ter­state 66 out­side the Belt­way. The rapid growth of western Fair­fax County and Prince Wil­liam County will mean more con­ges­tion. One year ago, North­ern Vir­ginia busi­ness lead­ers and many of the re­gion’s elected of­fi­cials ap­plauded Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) prom­ise to de­liver im­prove­ments to this sec­tion of I-66, bring­ing re­lief to thou­sands of com­muters and busi­nesses stuck in daily grid­lock.

The pro­posal McAuliffe out­lined is bold and cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive. Re­cent es­ti­mates sug­gest that the cost of these im­prove­ments ranges from $2 bil­lion to $3 bil­lion. While new trans­porta­tion rev­enue has just started to de­liver re­lief and im­proved pave­ments, Vir­ginia’s in­fra­struc­ture needs far out­pace re­sources on a pay-as-you-go ba­sis. So we must con­tinue to iden­tify in­no­va­tive and cre­ative ways to de­liver on the prom­ise of re­duced con­ges­tion and im­proved qual­ity of life.

One so­lu­tion we have used re­cently to meet Vir­ginia’s trans­porta­tion fund­ing chal­lenges is public-pri­vate part­ner­ships. These al­low the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to di­rect rev­enue to other re­gional pri­or­i­ties. By lever­ag­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment, Vir­ginia can de­liver big projects more quickly and free up re­main­ing funds with­out af­fect­ing the com­mon­wealth’s bor­row­ing ca­pac­ity.

Pri­vate in­vest­ment in trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture is a pop­u­lar con­cept, es­pe­cially since no­body be­lieves we are headed back to the days of fed­eral mu­nif­i­cence as our highways and bridges live on past their de­sign life. Re­cently, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in­tro­duced the BRIDGE Act, which would es­tab­lish an in­fra­struc­ture fi­nanc­ing au­thor­ity and lever­age pri­vate in­vest­ments with those from fed­eral, state and lo­cal sources. This con­cept has also been cham­pi­oned by Hil­lary Clin­ton, who re­cently re­newed her com­mit­ment to the cre­ation of an in­fra­struc­ture bank that uses a public-pri­vate part­ner­ship ap­proach to in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing.

Vir­ginia is con­sid­ered a leader in these ef­forts, learn­ing from bad con­tracts in south­east­ern Vir­ginia and very good, pop­u­lar projects here. In North­ern Vir­ginia, two such part­ner­ships were used to con­struct the In­ter­state 495 and In­ter­state 95 ex­press lanes. Con­struc­tion was com­pleted safely in record time. The projects gen­er­ated more than $5 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, sup­ported 28,000 jobs and is­sued $765 mil­lion in con­tracts to small and fe­male- and mi­nor­ity-owned busi­nesses. By at­tract­ing $1 bil­lion of pri­vate eq­uity to de­liver the I-66 pro­ject, there is ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve we can re­peat these suc­cesses.

If we can lever­age pri­vate funds for big projects, we can save re­sources for cor­ri­dors that do not lend them­selves to a public-pri­vate part­ner­ship so­lu­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.