McDonnell Sees Gold in Naming Rights for Bridges, Highways, Interchanges

photoPssst, hey buddy, wanta’ buy a bridge?

If Gov. Bob McDonnell has his way, you’ll soon be able to buy not only a bridge, but also a highway, interchange, tunnel or some other piece of infrastructure.  Well, not the whole thing, just the naming rights.

It’s one of several new funding ideas McDonnell put forth today, coming on the heels of his 2011 transportation funding plan which set the framework for investing nearly $4 billion over the next three years. McDonnell is also proposing creation of the Virginia Toll Road Authority, a new authority to construct, maintain and operate toll road facilities throughout the Commonwealth. Toll facilities currently operated by VDOT could be transferred to the authority, and the authority will provide another option for constructing major infrastructure projects without ceding complete control to a non-state partner, McDonnell said.

Other new initiatives include:

  • Enhance the Barge and Rail Use, International Trade Facility, and Port Volume Increase Tax Credits adopted during the 2011 General Assembly to make Virginia’s port more competitive versus its competitors.
  • Reform the Virginia Port Authority board of commissioners to ensure that the most experienced and qualified Virginians can serve on the board.
  • Increase Virginia’s representation on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors to bring conformity with recently enacted federal legislation and ensure that Virginia taxpayers are fairly represented on the board.
  • Codify Virginia’s seat on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board of directors and implement qualifications-based requirements on appointees to the board to ensure effective governance and safety of the WMATA transit system. The qualifications-based requirements are the recommendation of the Governance Work Group comprised of governors McDonnell and O’Malley and Mayor Gray.

“Last year, working across party lines, we took a significant step forward in addressing Virginia’s long-neglected transportation system by implementing reforms to transportation agencies and by accelerating projects and bond funding that had languished in bureaucracy. Collectively, we put the most new funding into transportation in a generation,” said McDonnell. “This session, we must take the necessary steps to build off of last year’s historic efforts, provide additional new funding for maintenance and construction, and continue reforming our transportation agencies to deliver projects and services more efficiently. Virginia simply cannot remain a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not continue to address our transportation challenges. That is why this year’s transportation package will dedicate additional funding to transportation and will help spur our economic recovery through job creation, forward-thinking investments and promoting our transportation assets.”

Future allocations

At the 2011 Governor’s Transportation Conference in Norfolk in December, McDonnell called for changes in laws governing the allocation of future surpluses to transportation, dedicating portions of revenue growth attributable to transportation infrastructure projects to transportation, phasing in an additional dedication of .25 percent of the sales tax to transportation over the next eight years, establishing an Interstate 85 Connector Economic Development and Promotion Zone to encourage businesses to invest in Virginia and ship through Virginia ports, and advancing Virginia’s commercial space flight programs.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter said, “For years we have struggled with solutions to our transportation challenges. I applaud Governor McDonnell for recognizing these challenges and putting forward a common-sense package that will address our maintenance deficits and provide further tools to our transportation agencies to advance critical projects.

“MWAA and WMATA serve thousands of Virginians each year,” said Delegate Jim LeMunyon. “We must ensure that they are properly managed, transparent and accountable to our citizens. Two additional Virginia appointees on the MWAA board of directors will ensure that Virginia’s interests are represented, and requiring appointees to the WMATA board of directors to have transportation, transit, or other relevant experience will help WMATA better address governance and safety concerns and avoid cost increases.”

“Whether it’s funding to maintain our roads, incentives for transportation-related businesses, or reforming our transportation agencies, we must continue to improve our transportation infrastructure and assets,” said Senator Frank Wagner. “Virginia is ripe with opportunities, but to realize them and continue our record on economic development and job creation, we must address our transportation challenges.”

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.