News | July 18, 2013

Landmark Transportation Funding Law Features Funding for Virginia Passenger Rail

The most significant transportation funding law in Virginia in almost 30 years was passed by the 2013 General Assembly and took effect on July 1. SELC provided analysis of the major impacts of the complex funding proposal to legislators, committee staff, and other groups, and we worked with our partners to ensure that the bill included funding for cleaner transportation alternatives. The measures ultimately adopted should provide over $50 million annually for passenger rail—the highest annual amount dedicated to passenger rail by any state. The new law also contains $300 million for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project and significant additional dollars for transit. 

The funding package has many problems, however, including establishing a fee that creates a disincentive for purchasing less-polluting vehicles (which SELC and its allies did succeed in reducing). The new law also provides significant additional funds for highway construction. Our challenge now is to channel these new revenues to beneficial projects. 

The rail funding is the latest in a series of victories for rail advocates that comes as rail ridership in Virginia reaches record levels. In the past year, rail service was reestablished between Richmond and Norfolk, and plans are afoot to extend the popular Washington, D.C.-Charlottesville-Lynchburg Amtrak route to Roanoke. Many of the recommendations in The Case For Virginia’s Regional Trains: Funding Passenger Rail, a report released by SELC and partners in January 2012, were realized in the new funding law. The new provisions make Virginia the first state in the country to provide ongoing, dedicated funding for intercity passenger rail.