Route 123, public transit projects can benefit from federal legislation | Securities

Politicians in Prince William County are already dreaming about how the federal infrastructure bill money could be used to kickstart a number of area transportation projects large and small.

President Joe Biden enacted the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure investment and jobs law in a White House ceremony on November 15. project financing.

However, some local officials are hoping the money can speed up big changes to the Route 123 interchanges under consideration by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as possible plans to bring rapid transit by bus or even Metrorail. up to Prince William.

Details of how the new money will be made available through the VDOT and the US Department of Transportation are still unknown, but an analysis of the legislation by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association predicts the bill will gradually increase annual funding. of Virginia’s highways and mass transit systems. from about $ 1.3 billion in fiscal 2021 to $ 1.85 billion in fiscal 2025. In addition, the bill will significantly increase the funds available for new projects through grants federal popular for transportation.

Meagan Landis, grants analyst for the county transportation department, said most of the funds will be allocated to the state to be distributed to localities, “so it will be some time before we have specific details on the impact on Prince William County. What we can say at the present time is that the infrastructure bill provides for long-term authorization for surface transportation programs, which provides stable and guaranteed funding for the programs that the county used to finance transport projects.

Landis added that the bill also provides much more funding for competitive federal grants. “The county regularly requests discretionary federal grants, but the programs are oversubscribed and have offered limited chances of securing funding.”

In total, the bill will more than double the prize pool available through the RAISE grant program to $ 7.5 billion over five years, and increase INFRA’s prize pool to $ 3 billion over five years. The bill also creates a new grant program, the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (NIPA) grant, which will allocate $ 5 billion to multimodal and intergovernmental projects.

The bill will also make smaller investments in a number of other areas that could affect the region, such as electric buses, safe street infrastructure and bridge repairs.

Wheeler: “Great Promise”

Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Ann Wheeler said in an email that the new NIPA program is expected to benefit the state’s Transforming Rail in Virginia plan, among other things.

“I see great promise in the potential for local and regional investment … whether it is funding to help accelerate the completion of the US 1 expansion, to investment in public transit. by bus or Metrorail to Prince William County, or improved reliability through reconstruction of the Long Bridge, ”Wheeler added.

VDOT is expected to finalize its Woodbridge STARS study on three Route 123 interchanges – at Old Bridge Road, Interstate 95 and US 1 – in the coming months, but county transportation officials have already identified their own preferred options for interchanges. The Highway 1 and Old Bridge Road flyover ramps are expected to cost around $ 61.2 million and $ 54 million, respectively, and the county will likely apply to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, state governments, and the federal government to help fund the projects.

Monica Backmon, the authority’s chief executive, is waiting for the same details on final allowances as everyone else. But she says the legislation will directly or indirectly make a lot more money available through the NVTA and its six-year program. In its latest update, NVTA was only able to respond to about a quarter of the total project funding requests it received.

“We are thrilled because any additional funding that comes in to Virginia and in particular Northern Virginia is really helping NVTA with our investments. Right now we have a fundraising program that we’re doing, $ 1.3 billion in claims that we just don’t have, ”Backmon told InsideNoVa. “This is a huge opportunity for us to complete some projects maybe sooner than they otherwise could have been completed or completed. … It could be indirectly in some of the investments that this will allow the communities to make, some of the projects that they may have asked us for. “

A number of local politicians are also hoping that some of the new infrastructure money can accelerate a possible plan to bring rapid transit to Prince William. The Department of Rail and Public Transportation recently published analysis on Metrorail extensions through Fairfax County to Prince William and the idea of ​​extending the Fairfax Route 1 bus rapid transit line. across the Occoquan River to Triangle.

All still theoretical, the improvements would be costly, but could add up to the bill for new funding from congressional legislation.

Surovell prepares legislation

Senator Scott Surovell (D-36th), a longtime supporter of bringing Metro to Prince Wiliam County, said he is drafting a bill for this winter’s General Assembly session to prioritize transit projects in Northern Virginia on a regional basis, and he hopes the new funding can eventually help kick-start some expensive items like rapid bus transit or metro expansion.

In Metro’s case, the bill could not only help finance the construction of possible extensions, but also help the system meet baseline capacity needs, which the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority said would be needed before pursue such extensions.

And if Prince William’s rulers decide to pursue rapid bus transit – perhaps as a stepping stone to increasing density around potential metro stations – there could also be many more federal grants available for that.

“The important part is that there will be a lot more money available to fund projects, so the competition won’t be as intense,” Surovell said. “One of the biggest complaints I often get about public transport extensions and especially metro extensions is, ‘How are you going to pay for this? The federal government has just released a new big pot to start paying for things. I think we need to come up with a plan to mine it so that our money doesn’t go to California or New York or Georgia.

Melvin Z. Madore