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Stafford tables talks for regional transportation authority until 2018

Photo: VDOT

STAFFORD — The creation of a regional transportation authority would give it the power to levy taxes to improve roads and transit in the Fredericksburg region.

Much like RTAs in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the authority would also decide which projects to fund.

After last night, the Fredericksburg region is no closer to establishing such an authority after the Stafford County Board of Supervisors decided to postpone its discussion on the matter until as many as three new Board member takes their seats in January.

Spotsylvania County supervisors rejected the RTA in October. But officials in Fredericksburg support the measure.

Before an RTA could be created, Richmond legislators need to change the rules. The preceding text was taken from a Fredericksburg City document:

“Specifically, we wish to see changed the existing HB 2313 legislation to enable areas outside of Northern Virginia (PDC 8) and Hampton Roads (PDC 23) to also be able to create Regional Transportation Authorities with local and regional support. This would involve removing the size thresholds for regional transportation authorities of 1.5 million population, 1.2 million registered vehicles, and 15 million in yearly transit ridership from the HB 2313 legislation.”

Fredericksburg leaders also want state legislators to allow to require a minimum of two adjacent localities to form an RTA. So, if Spotsylvania leaders opt out, Stafford and other counties in Virginia’s Planning District 16 to include Caroline and King George could still participate.

Stafford Rock Hill District Supervisor Wendy Maurer on Tuesday asked to table the discussion. Without everyone on board, she’s skeptical that an RTA would work.

“I have serious reservations about creating another bureaucracy where we’ll need another six-figure salary person to head the organization,” said Maurer.

She’s of the mindset that if higher taxes is what is needed for transportation projects in Stafford County, let Stafford’s elected officials be the ones to hike the tax rate.

The move toward an RTA may be a bit premature, she adds, as new transportation monies are already flowing into the region.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year announced $165 million in new funding for improvement projects along the “Atlantic Gateway” to include Interstate 95 and the CSX Rail line that runs parallel to the highway. The funds are now being used to extend the I-395 E-ZPass Express Lanes to the Pentagon and, when approved, the I-95 E-ZPass lanes to Route 17 in Stafford County.

Those lanes will give drivers new options to carpool, or pay a toll to avoid traffic congestion. A new $149 million diverging diamond interchange under construction now at Courthouse Road in Stafford will give drivers a new way to cross over that highway congestion.

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