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Va. lawmakers turn cold shoulder to Fairfax transportation pleas

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Virginia is unlikely to give Fairfax County any money to bridge the county's $3 billion transportation funding gap, based on the response the County Board of Supervisors received to its pitch for those funds Tuesday.

Board members spoke for nearly an hour on the county's self-dubbed "transportation crisis" to members of Fairfax County's delegation to the General Assembly, only to learn that lawmakers are divided on the topic and expect no transportation-related funding to come from the state next year.

"We cannot afford to take any more money out of the general fund," said Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield. "I mean not one penny."

Some legislators proposed possibly raising the gas tax or increasing sales taxes by 0.5 percent, but Saslaw said he wasn't confident that would pass because there isn't a governor who is "out in front with it and willing to break arms in order to get the job done."

The only way Fairfax County can possibly get money is if all parties -- especially state and local lawmakers -- agree to "plug our noses and eat something we don't like," said Del. David Albo, R-Springfield.

"The only people who care about roads are in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and a few people in Richmond," Albo said. "No one else in this state gives a hoot about the issue. They do not care."

Fairfax County plans to spend roughly $8.1 billion on transportation needs in the next decade, but officials have only identified $5.1 billion in funding. The $3 billion gap creates a need for $300 million in transportation funding each year.

A bulk of the overall funding will go toward adding roads in Tysons Corner to transform it from an office park into an urban downtown area, improvements to relieve traffic created by the shifting of military personnel into the county, and transit projects for Dulles Rail.

"Continued inaction on transportation funding imposes an additional tax on our residents, families and businesses through diminished quality of life, higher fuel costs, higher vehicle maintenance costs and loss of economic opportunities," County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said while urging lawmakers to find funding.

After the meeting, Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said it was "completely ridiculous" that the county's General Assembly delegation couldn't agree on a single solution. He said he was still confident that the county would receive funding.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, echoed Herrity's sentiments.

"Don't be deceived by all the doom and gloom," Petersen said. "There's still a little bit of daylight. ... We've still got to put something forward."

Also at Tuesday's joint meeting, board members talked about the county's projected budget shortfall for the next two years and presented their 2013 Legislative Program, which addresses the county's priorities for the coming year.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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