Name a Virginia road for $5,000 to $200,000

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

Cough up $200,000, promise not to use potty humor, and you could get to name your favorite stretch of interstate in Virginia.

Desperate for cash to build and fix roads, Virginia recently approved legislation that would allow corporations or individuals to pay to put their names on the state's roads and bridges. Following a successful program that allowed corporations to brand state highway rest stops, the naming-rights measure is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars for roads, according to transportation officials who are now identifying which pieces of the state's infrastructure are ripe for naming and what to charge.

The one thing the General Assembly did want to ensure when it approved the novel funding plan this month is that there wouldn't be a bunch of offensive signs along state highways.

Drive it, buy it, name it
Virginia is preparing to sell naming rights for its roads and bridges. Costs will vary, but proposals include:
-Major interstates like I-95: $200,000 in urban areas, $75,000 in rural
-Primary Roads like Glebe Road in Arlington: $20,000 to $50,000
-Secondary Roads like Burke Centre Parkway in Fairfax: $5,000 to $17,500
-Tunnels and a ferry: $3.1 million total
-25 interchanges: $19 million total
Source: Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research

So lawmakers specifically outlawed any names that are "profane, obscene, or vulgar ... sexually explicit or graphic ... excretory related ... descriptive of intimate body parts or genitals ... descriptive of illegal activities or substances ... condones or encourages violence ... socially, racially, or ethnically offensive or disparaging."

The state could make $27.3 million from naming rights in the first five years and about $273 million over 20 years, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research estimates.

The cost depends on what is being named, but naming rights could be bought for as little as $5,000, according to revenue projections. Interstate highways could cost up to $200,000 for an urban stretch and $75,000 in rural areas. Bridges, tunnels and at least one ferry may also be available for naming.

The prices are not set in stone. The Virginia Department of Transportation is still crafting rules for the program, which takes effect July 1.

The sale of naming rights was one of Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation initiatives in this year's General Assembly, which nixed other, more expansive McDonnell proposals like his plan to divert part of the state sales tax to roads.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, opposed the naming-rights bill, saying she doubts it would raise meaningful sums in a state that needs billions.

"To pretend that we're going to make money on naming rights is ridiculous," she said. "People aren't going to spend millions of dollars to put their name on a bridge and be associated with congestion."

Michael Cassidy, president of the non-partisan Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, shared those concerns.

"The estimates they've put together may be realistic based on that industry for that type of thing. The real issue is that it's a distraction from the key challenge, which is finding adequate funding for transportation," he said. "Virginians should make no mistake that this kind of gimmick solves the state's problem."

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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