In April, the Virginia General Assembly voted to give Northern Virginia the authority to raise certain local fees to raise money for regional transportation projects. When the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority votes this week on just what to increase, Alexandria drivers and transit users stand to reap the rewards of regional priority projects and local initiatives.
NVTA will hold a public hearing on which taxes should be raised and on the prioritization of transportation projects on July 12. After the hearing, they will vote.
A vote of six of the nine member jurisdictions constitutes a majority for this purpose, said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, the citys representative to NVTA. We have a menu of items from which to choose. I dont know that we will increase all of the fees or taxes that are available to us but there seems to be consensus that we need to get about $300 million a year from whatever we do.
The weight of the vote is based on the population of the voting jurisdiction, giving Fairfax County significant influence. The day after the vote, NVTA will file papers in U.S. District Court asking for bonding authority and we have been assured that the court will render an opinion within 60 days, Euille said. Loudoun County has raised some objection to NVTA levying fees or taxes and thats exactly what the federal court will decide. Based on legal opinions that we have received, we think everything will be fine.
Once NVTA decides, and if a federal judge affirms that decision, two Alexandria projects are on the list to receive funding almost immediately. These projects are already in the pipeline and have been set as regional priorities, said Richard Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services for the city.
First, there will be money to develop and implement bus rapid transit from Crystal City to the Braddock Road Metro station. This will link the Arlington and Alexandria portions of Potomac Yard to Metro rail on both ends. Buses will run down the middle of Route 1, with stops throughout Potomac Yard.
With all of the development at Potomac Yard, this is very important to both Arlington and Alexandria, Baier said.
Alexandria is building a new DASH bus facility and additional funds from the new regional program will allow for the construction of an enclosed facility and not just an outdoor storage area. Keeping the buses indoors will increase their usable life and will decrease the cost of heating and cooling in the morning, Baier said. This new indoor facility will cost between $8 and $10 million.
Alexandrians will also benefit from improvements at the Huntington Metro station. Platforms and escalators will be enclosed to protect customers from the elements, Baier said.
NVTA will also use regional funds to purchase additional trains for Virginia Railway Express, easing the commute for those who live in the outer suburbs and work in Alexandria and Arlington. Also, city residents will benefit from transit and pedestrian improvements planned for the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County.