Northern Virginia weighs how to spend new roads money

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Local,Virginia,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Northern Virginia commuters are asking what they get out of a $3 billion transportation funding deal that Republican and Democratic state lawmakers brokered in Richmond over the weekend.

The answer: lower tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, higher taxes, and the rest is yet to be decided.

Long-awaited projects -- such as widening the Fairfax County Parkway, building a Metro station at Potomac Yard and running a streetcar along Columbia Pike in Arlington -- are in the running for funding, but officials will have to put together a final list in coming months.

Northern Virginia's take in new transportation law:
- $300 million to $350 million every year by 2018
- $300 million for Metro's Silver Line
- A portion of statewide road funds that is still undetermined
- A 6 percent sales tax, slightly higher than the rest of the state
- New taxes on hotel stays and home buyers

The state's package gives $300 million to Northern Virginia's new Silver Line, allowing project officials to keep lower tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, which is paying for much of the second half of the rail line.

But leaders have yet to decide which projects will get the extra $350 million per year in taxes that Northern Virginia will now be allowed to raise. Officials say they'd like to see key roads widened and streetcars and buses paid for.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, a member of the regional authority that will dole out most of Northern Virginia's funds, said she'd like to see improvements or widening of the traffic-clogged Fairfax County Parkway, Route 29, Route 50, Rolling Road and Route 1.

But she said she also would like to work with Metro to buy more railcars, replacing decades-old cars that are prone to breakdowns.

And Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, whose agency will work with regional officials to decide which projects will reduce congestion the most, said he'd also like to help fund a Metro station at Potomac Yard, Arlington's streetcar project on Columbia Pike and improvements to frequently jammed Interstate 66.

"Obviously, we're going to have to work through a lot of different issues," Connaughton said. "It's one thing to develop a plan when you don't have any money, and it's another thing to develop a plan when you do have money."

Connaughton said some projects may have to be funded with a combination of state and regional funds.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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