Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fairfax secondary road funds decrease from $11M to $250K

Transportation funds in Fairfax County have just about disappeared. According to the Connection newspaper article Fairfax Out of Road Money, this year the county received $250,000 in secondary road funds compared to $11,000,000 received last year. $11M is about half what it received in years past. Nearly all roads in the county are considered secondary roads.
So the county's secondary road construction funding pool is expected to cover a wide range projects. New speed bumps, crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops, no-parking signs, stop signs, interchanges and the widening of existing roads are just some of the types of transportation enhancements that are supposed to be funded out of this pot of money, now at $240,000.

The shortage of funds has resulted in several transportation projects being dropped or permanently put on hold.

Officials halted plans to widen parts of Rolling Road, Telegraph Road, Richmond Highway and Route 7 outside over the new few years. No money is available for interchange construction at Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Neuman Street, Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Interstate 95 or Franconia Road and South Van Dorn Street, according to Ichter.

"There are roads that have been included in the secondary program since 1986 and now there is no hope of getting them built in the short term," she said.

Lack of "secondary road" construction funding could also impact much of the plans to redevelop Tysons Corner and other parts of northern Fairfax County around the new Metrorail extension. According to Ichter, there will be no state money to expand the number of bus routes or increase service on existing bus lines, even if passengers at the new Metro stations demand it.

There will also be no state money available to assist with developing a grid of streets or installing more pedestrian and bicycle paths in Tysons Corner, where the county hopes to create a more urban landscape, said Ichter.
In a related article Fairfax Executive Suggests Dropping 'County', Tony Griffin, the Fairfax County Executive, "suggested yesterday that it might be time for his urbanizing community to become a full-fledged city."
Griffin told the Board of Supervisors that city status would allow Fairfax greater autonomy over taxes and transportation. But it would also turn the tables on the nearby capital city: With 1 million residents, a new Fairfax City would dwarf the District of Columbia, which has fewer than 600,000. (Set aside for a moment that the county already surrounds a smaller Fairfax City.)

"In reality, we do everything a city does aside from maintain the roads," Griffin said. "I think there are substantial arguments to be made for conversion."

Attaining city status, Griffin said, would require a referendum and approval by the state legislature.
The past and current Board chairmen disagree on the wisdom of this idea:
The county explored the possibility of taking over roads in 1990 but rejected it partly on concerns about cost to taxpayers. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), former chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said it would be unwise to revisit the issue during a recession.

"I think it would be a grave fiscal mistake at this time," Connolly said. "It will cost potentially hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Here's the county executive telling the board that there's another $300 [million] to $350 million hole in the projected budget. This is not the time to be talking about taking on new responsibilities."

But Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said it was worth another look. And she said perhaps it is time for Fairfax to lose the "county" label.

"Fifty, 60 years ago...we were one of the largest producers of dairy products," she said. "Now we are a mostly suburban community with some urbanizing areas. The city label more accurately describes what Fairfax is."

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