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Funding possible for 16 Northern Virginia road and 26 transit projects

Friday - 4/26/2013, 7:28am  ET

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Virginia's transportation secretary Sean Connaughton stressed to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority that people want to see immediate signs of the transportation bill. He urged the group to approve several shovel-ready projects on July 1. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)
FAIRFAX, Va. - The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is one step closer to deciding which projects will get funding in July from the state's newly passed transportation package.

The group developed a list of 16 roadway projects and 26 transit projects that could get money immediately.

"We believe it is imperative that we get as many projects underway this year as possible," says Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.

"The people have to see visually the improvement. People are willing to pay the necessary price if they see the benefits of it."

Among the projects being considered are several improvements along Virginia Route 28 in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

"If you were looking for a poster child for a regional project that has great interest for Herndon, for Fairfax County, for Loudoun County, Route 28 is it," says Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.

"A lot of improvements on Route 28 need to be done. It's very important for Loudoun residents commuting into Fairfax County every day," says Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Scott York.

Five separate Route 28 projects are on the short list, including widening projects from Prince William County to U.S. 29, McLearen Road to the Dulles Toll Road, and the Dulles Toll Road to U.S. 50 and Sterling Boulevard.

In Prince William County, officials are hoping the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will allocate money for a project to U.S. 1 from Featherstone Road to Mary's Way.

"The best opportunity for job creating in Northern Virginia is that corridor between Fort Belvoir and Quantico. The biggest thing holding it back is the lack of a properly designed infrastructure along Route 1 to make it possible," says NVTA Chairman and Prince William Supervisor Martin Nohe.

"My family moved back to Woodbridge because my father was re-stationed at Fort Belvoir in 1974. Back then it took 12 minutes to get from our house to the front gate. Right now, I don't think you could get out of the neighborhood in 12 minutes," Nohe says.

There also is hope that some money can be allocated to Virginia Railway Express.

"We can put hundreds of millions of dollars into road construction, but that only makes sense if we also find ways to take people out of their cars. If all we do is dump more cars on the road, then we haven't achieved anything," says Nohe.

"This would give us the ability to purchase some newer (rail) cars. The larger cars would immediately expand capacity on VRE. We also have projects to lengthen the platforms so passengers can more easily access the trains. Even planning money to eventually expand VRE to Haymarket and Gainesville, although that will take many years," says Bulova.

Arlington Board member Chris Zimmerman hopes some money could go to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

"I don't think there's anything that would have a bigger impact than going to all eight-car trains on Metro. The demand is there and it's something we hope to get to very soon," says Zimmerman.

Metro has made all eight-car trains in rush hour and easing congestion at choke points like the Rosslyn tunnel priorities in its Momentum strategic plan, hoping to achieve those goals over the next decade.

Connaughton also points out that new funding will make Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project move forward smoothly. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority gave preliminary approval to Capital Rail Constructors, which includes local firm Clark Construction Group.

"We think the lower bid, along with the pending TIFIA loan, and the $300 million from the transportation bill, will have a positive impact on the project and the drivers on the Dulles Toll Road," says Connaughton.

Loudoun County Chair Scott York also said he was pleased with the announcement of Phase 2, telling WTOP that Clark Construction has a good reputation and that he's confident it'll complete the project on time and on budget.

Meanwhile the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will spend the next two months culling down the list of road and transit projects, then holding public hearings in June to get feedback.

The next Northern Virginia Transportation Authority meeting is May 23.

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