Virginia General Assembly boosts clean transportation

The 2020 General Assembly session was a watershed for efforts to transform Virginia’s transportation system. The marquee bill was a complex proposal that includes the largest transportation funding increase in Virginia in a generation. If signed by Governor Northam, this omnibus bill is projected to raise an additional $408 million annually by FY25—primarily from an increase in the state gas tax. SELC worked hard to ensure that the funding and other provisions in the bill benefit cleaner forms of transportation.

Among other things, the omnibus bill provides:

  • A record increase in funding for public transportation and rail, with transit projected to receive almost $147 million per year and rail $55.5 million per year by FY 2025.
  • A significant increase in maintenance funding for roads and bridges, consistent with the “fix it first” approach SELC has long promoted.
  • All new highway construction money will go through a funding prioritization process that requires more objective and transparent review and has helped curb destructive highway projects.
  • A new rail authority will be created, which will help implement the state’s recent plans to significantly expand passenger rail service. 

“Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in Virginia,” notes SELC Land & Community Program leader Trip Pollard. “Although we didn’t get everything we wanted in this bill, and much more remains to be done to reduce vehicle pollution, the omnibus bill is a landmark that will accelerate the shift towards cleaner transportation in Virginia.”

In addition to the omnibus bill, other transportation bills passed by the General Assembly will provide the first dedicated funding for public transportation in Hampton Roads, and launch a study of a new east-west passenger rail service known as the Commonwealth Corridor based on a report SELC co-authored last fall. We also were able to help defeat all bills that would have weakened Virginia’s funding prioritization process. And we played a major role in passing the first legislation in Virginia that expressly links land use, transportation, and greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging localities to promote transit oriented development when updating their comprehensive plans in order to reduce traffic congestion and carbon pollution.

“The Virginia General Assembly’s actions on transportation this year are historic steps forward,” Pollard says. “And these steps will help drive further progress towards cleaner transportation.”

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