Absence of Reliable Transportation Funding Costing Virginia Motorists Billions

February 3, 2020 by Dan McCue
Cars move slowly along the notoriously congested Capital Beltway, looking north at Tysons Corner, Virginia on April 5, 2012. Relief for Beltway drivers is on the way, in the form of express toll lanes, which will open in December 2012. Drivers using the center lanes will pay a toll that adjusts to traffic volume, and the outer lanes will remain toll-free. Washington Metro's extension to Dulles International Airport crosses the highway in the center of the photo. (Curtis Tate/MCT)

WASHINGTON – Virginia motorists lose 9.5 billion annually on roadways that are rough, congested and lacking in some desirable safety features, according to a new report by TRIP, a nonpartisan research organization focusing on transportation issues.

The nonprofit says the lack of sustainable, long-term funding costs as much as $2,583 per driver due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays, while also impairing Virginia’s ability to improve road conditions.

Previous TRIP reports raised similar concerns about Louisiana, where it says motorists are losing $6.9 billion annually, or $2,300 per driver; and New Mexico, where it concluded motorists are losing $2.6 billion annually or $2,100 per driver.

The TRIP report, “Virginia Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Virginia, approximately one third of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

In addition, more than 600 locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient.

The report also finds that travel on Virginia’s roadways has increased by 14 percent from 2000 to 2018 and six percent from 2013 to 2018, resulting in increasing traffic congestion, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.

On top of all this, tragically, 3,875 people lost their lives on the state’s roads in traffic crashes from 2014-2018.

The report goes on to say that Virginia’s current sources of transportation revenues will not keep pace with the state’s future transportation needs.

This is largely a result of increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and the increasing use of electric vehicles, which, combined, are expected to significantly reduce the revenue generated by the state’s motor fuel tax revenues.

Average fuel efficiency for passenger vehicles in the U.S. has increased by 20 percent over the last decade and is expected to increase by 31 percent by 2030 and 51 percent by 2040. 

And, electric vehicles, which now account for two percent of passenger vehicles in Virginia, are expected to increase to 46 percent of passenger vehicles in Virginia by 2040. 

As a result of increased fuel efficiency and the adoption of electric vehicles, gasoline and diesel consumption in Virginia is expected to decrease 23 percent by 2030, and 51 percent by 2040.  This decline is expected to decrease Virginia’s state motor fuel tax receipts by 34 percent by 2030 and 62 percent by 2040. State diesel fuel tax receipts are expected to decrease 24 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2040.

“The lack of adequate, sustainable transportation funding in Virginia will lead to increasing deterioration on the state’s roads and bridges and even longer congestion-related delays for commuters, businesses and visitors,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director, in a written statement.

“Deteriorated, congested roads rob drivers of time and money while reducing the state’s competitive advantage and threatening economic growth. Making investments that will improve the condition and efficiency of Virginia’s transportation system will ensure that the state remains an attractive place to live, visit and do business,” he said.

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