Spotsylvania and Regional Transportation Updates
On May 22nd, the Board of Supervisors adopted the FY19-FY23 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) by a 6-1 vote (Supervisor Yakabouski opposed). The CIP adoption previously failed at an April Board meeting due to disagreements over transportation projects. On May 22, most of the discussion focused on transportation projects (a video clip below has the full discussion). There seemed to be several reasons for Supervisor Yakabouski's no vote. First, he did not believe that transportation projects should be paid for with Bond Referendum money while areas that were specifically identified in the 2014 Bond Question were skipped in the process. The list of transportation projects included in the 2014 Bond Referendum question that voters approved can be found here. The CIP Transportation Projects can be found on page 6 of the PDF document to the right.
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Supervisor Yakabouski has also recently demonstrated some concern about paying for transportation projects (a state responsibility) with local general fund money. General fund money is used to pay for schools, public safety, social services, and general governance. In recent years, general funds were needed to meet shortfalls in the Transportation Fund. The Transportation Fund is largely funded through the local VRE Fuel Tax. It’s an interesting argument, because if local governments take on a larger role in transportation, it would seem that over time the state legislature might be tempted to funnel less resources to road projects. To a degree this is already occurring. This could require Spotsylvania to contribute more future resources to transportation projects at the expense of other priorities such as schools and public safety, which will require the Board to raises local taxes to pay for items the state should be doing.
An idea might be to consider capping transportation expenditures to excess VRE tax revenue and Special Service Districts tax revenue to protect other county services and place needed pressure on the state legislature to develop a better mechanism to meet their responsibility.
On May 21, the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC) and Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO), both Fredericksburg District planning organizations, approved their 4 allotted (8 total) transportation projects under the state transportation funding program, SMARTSCALE. The below PDF provides a conceptual graphic depiction of each project. Click here to review Scott Shenk’s Free Lance-Star article, which provides a list of each project with a brief description.
These projects will be submitted for the 3rd round of SMARTSCALE. Each round has delivered less total transportation dollars than the previous round. The 3rd round is estimated to have $850 million available statewide and FAMPO Administrator estimates the Fredericksburg District could receive $29 million for regional transportation projects.
In SMARTSCALE, the bulk of state funding typically has gone to Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, because the funding system rewards localities that have leveraged funding for project submissions. Since these two areas have Transportation Authorities they are able to offer partial funding for projects, which leads to more state money being allocated to those areas. FAMPO’s Policy Committee rejected the idea of a Transportation Authority last Fall and the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 in 2017 to not consider a Transportation Authority as a possible solution. The Catch-22 is the Fredericksburg region is unlikely to get transportation dollars to make the necessary road improvements, under the current system. If the Transportation Authority is off the table, Spotsylvania Supervisors should consider providing the community a blueprint on how traffic issues and future needs can be reasonably addressed in another way.
In SMARTSCALE, Spotsylvania County can submit 4 projects. These four projects have not been formally approved by the Board of Supervisors, but the tentative list provided to the FAMPO Policy Committee can be found in the below PDF.