Va. takes hard look at $3.3 billion transportation plan

Strategy, which is built around more borrowing, receives key support from group of Democrats

News The Washington Post January 25, 2011
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Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell is asking for borrowed money and borrowed support from the state Democratic party for an ambitious $3.3 billion transportation plan. On Monday it looked like the Republican leader was well on his way to achieving one of his top priorities, as five key Democrats offered support for an infrastructure strategy that is built around bonds.

The group, which includes two members of the Senate Finance Committee, was impressed with the idea of borrowing now when interest rates and construction costs are low. The plan involves the use of $1.8 billion in accelerated bond issues approved by the state in 2007. In addition, McDonnell is proposing issuing another $1.1 billion in debt and paying it back with future federal highway funds. Virginia also will create an infrastructure bank that will hold up to $400 million for highway and bridge construction.

“We are in desperate need of doing something with our transportation system,” Sen. Ralph Northam told The Washington Post. Northam is one of the five Democrats offering support. “We are coming out of a recession and we need to put people back to work. If there’s any time to borrow money, this is a good time to do it.”

With the surge in support, it looks like McDonnell has the votes he needs in the state Senate, but moving it through the House of Delegates may be a more difficult task.
If approved, the transportation package could fund a list of 900 projects over the next three years identified by McDonnell’s office.

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