With Thornton as chairman, transportation authority marks successful first year
For years, Henrico County’s transportation needs have exceeded its available funding. As a result, major projects – like building the Fall Line Trail, Lambert Way or the Magellan Parkway extension over Interstate 95 – have often had to wait years to proceed.
The same dynamic has snared smaller initiatives – such as building sidewalks along Raintree and Causeway drives, a trail along Messer Road or upgrading the intersection of Darbytown and Turner roads.
But Henrico is now able to advance each of those projects – and more – thanks to a new funding stream provided through the Central Virginia Transportation Authority (CVTA).
“This is a good tool – something we probably needed years ago, but this was the appropriate moment in time for us to put this in place,” said Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton, the authority’s first chairman.
The 2020 General Assembly established the CVTA to boost investments in transportation projects and services in the nine localities that comprise Planning District 15. They are the town of Ashland, the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan and the city of Richmond.
The CVTA’s funding comes from an additional sales and use tax of 0.7% and a wholesale gas tax of 7.6 cents per gallon of gasoline and 7.7 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.
Thornton said the authority had a successful first year, establishing policies and procedures to provide a strong foundation and working cooperatively to identify the first round of regional projects. That list, approved in December, will provide a total of $109.5 million to support the development of the Fall Line Trail in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Ashland and Richmond; crossings of the Virginia Capital Trail in Charles City; Interstate 64 interchange improvements in Goochland; a park-and-ride lot in New Kent; and a turn lane on Stavemill Road in Powhatan.
“I am not surprised, but I am extremely pleased with the collegiality that we’re able to keep among the members of the CVTA,” Thornton said. “It’s something that, I think, is a good example of … Virginia gentility. We know how to treat people. We don’t necessarily agree on everything, but we come to a common point that we say, ‘What’s best for the region?’ That makes me proud.”
By law, the CVTA reserves 35% of its funds for regional projects, while 50% is returned to the member localities for local transportation projects and 15% is forwarded to GRTC for public transit services.
Henrico has more than $40 million available from fiscal 2020-21 and 2021-22 to support its first round of local projects. Officials have identified the following uses:
- To provide matching funds for federal and state grant programs, primarily pedestrian safety improvement projects – $8.2 million
- Fall Line Trail – $7.6 million
- Church Road safety and mobility improvements – $1.2 million
- Magellan Parkway extension – $8.5 million
- Glover Park access road and trail, which has been named Lambert Way – $3.7 million
- Various sidewalk and trail projects, including Raintree Drive, North Gayton Road, Causeway Drive, Magnolia Ridge Drive and Messer Road – $2 million
- Intersection improvement projects, including Gaskins Road/Quioccasin Road, Nuckols Road/Sadler Road, Horsepen Road/Three Chopt Road, Darbytown Road/Turner Road – $2.2 million
- Structural traffic calming demonstration projects – $1 million
- Transportation safety studies – $600,000
The CVTA funding supplements the federal, state and local dollars that Henrico uses for transportation projects and services. The county currently has about $356 million in active projects in various stages, including design, right-of-way acquisition and construction. The CVTA-supported projects represent about 13% of the total, according to the Department of Public Works.
The CVTA is modeled after authorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Until now, Thornton said, central Virginia has lacked the same tools to keep pace with its transportation needs, putting the region at a competitive disadvantage.
“Good roads – that’s going to be the expectation of all Virginians of the 21st century,” he said. “They’re going to be expecting to have good roads, good bus lines [and] public transportation. We now have an agency that will glean in on those types of initiatives that we probably could have had years ago, but we have it today, and we should be very proud of it.”