Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Virginia’s Construction Budget Issues Provoke State Legislative Gridlock

Virginia’s legislative impasse over using state funds to buy down scheduled tolls imposed for the next 58 years to pay for rehabilitation of the Norfolk Midtown and Downtown tunnels under the Elizabeth River with private sector partner Elizabeth River Crossings LLC threatens to shut down as many as 473 different maintenance and construction projects in the state. On Friday, April 13, VDOT notified the contractors on its highway and road projects that work will be suspended for the state’s convenience effective May 1, until the legislature can pass a transportation budget.

The $85 billion state budget is gridlocked in the evenly divided Virginia Senate, where Democrats threaten to block passage unless the toll buydowns are included. Monday, April 16, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said he supports postponing imposition of the tolls until 2014, at a cost to the state of $100 million, which will require cancellation of 42 other scheduled highway projects. The $1.84 per car tolls were set to go into effect this year, with annual rate hikes of at least 3.5% beginning in 2016.

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