The Virginia Senate Transportation Committee approved HB 1069, but removed language that set policy on where tolls can be imposed and required the Commonwealth to abandon a current federal option to place tolls on existing interstates.
The revised bill, HB 1069, incorporates elements of another bill that would allow Virginia to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states to collect unpaid tolls from out-of-state drivers totaling an estimated $21 million.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) said he would continue to seek limits on existing state authority to impose tolls without jeopardizing public-private transportation agreements that depend on them. That includes moving the provisions into the 2016-2018 budget, where they were adopted last week by the House.
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, CPA, said that the McAuliffe administration has pledged to relinquish its federal option to place tolls on existing interstates. The bill and budget legislation, as adopted by the House, would prohibit tolling on existing highways without General Assembly approval, with limited exceptions.
Fairfax Executive: Silver Line of Metro Aids in Economic Development Along Line
According to Fairfax County Executive Edward Long Jr., the Silver line of the Washington Metro has had a positive impact in economic development along the route in the 18 months it has been open.
While presenting his proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, Long noted that 86 percent of new office space under construction is within a quarter-mile of stations along the Silver line, which is open from East Falls Church to points west. The first stage of development involved five stations in Reston and Tysons Corner, while the next phase, which began last year, will build six more stations between Reston and Loudoun County, including a stop at Washington Dulles International Airport.
Long said that since a comprehensive plan for Tysons Corner was authorized in 2010, Fairfax County officials have approved 145 major applications totaling nearly 50 million square feet of office space.
Virginia Beach Will Push Forward With Light-Rail Research Ahead of April Vote
Despite an effort from city councilman John Moss, Virginia Beach will continue spending money on research into an extension into a light rail extension to Virginia Beach Town Center.
The council is scheduled to vote April 5 on whether to sign an agreement with the state that would commit Virginia Beach to pursuing light rail and buying passenger cars. If the city does not sign the agreement, it could lose $155 million in state money for the extension.
Moss proposed a resolution to stop spending money on light rail until the vote. No council member would second the resolution, so no vote was taken.
Pittsylvania County Executive Looks Into Agriculture Study
Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Matt Rowe will recommend the county do a comprehensive study into the agriculture industry with an eye on determining what types of agriculture are the best fit for the county.
Rowe will push for a study of all aspects of the industry, including food processing, viticulture, dairy, beef cattle, forestry, brewing and others. “We need to have an understanding of what we’re suited for,” he said.
The county will also discuss a 2015 study on a potential vertically integrated poultry complex that proponents have said will bring approximately 1,200 jobs to the county with an economic impact of $476 million.
Defense Contracts Bolster Hampton Roads Shipyards
Several recently awarded contracts should have a positive impact on the shipbuilding and repair industries in Hampton Roads.
Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News was the main beneficiary, receiving $237.7 million in contracts, including a $223 million deal for advance planning to perform the midlife overhaul of the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier and a $14.5 million deal for an engineering overhaul of the U.S.S. Columbus submarine.
Norfolk yards Lyon Shipyard Inc. and Colonna’s Shipyard received $8.48 million contracts for working on landing craft utility boats, while Virginia Beach firm Q.E.D. Systems received $11.64 million for advanced planning services relating to maintenance, modernization and related work for cruisers and destroyers.
Hampton Roads Residential Real Estate Market Improving
An Old Dominion University (ODU) economist says that the Hampton Roads residential real estate market is moving in a positive direction despite distressed sales continuing to suppress prices.
Vinod Agarwal, director of ODU’s Economic Forecasting Project, said that the market was “ripe for a takeoff.” The median sale price of existing homes rose 5 percent in 2015 after increasing 1.7 percent in 2014 and declining 19 percent in the previous five years, which Agarwal deemed a market correction.
However, in 2015, 12 percent of area existing home sales were of bank-owned properties and 6 percent were short sales. Those properties sell at a discount, dragging down overall home values. In 2011, those figures were 26.6 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Sales of newly constructed homes increased 18.9 percent from 2014. Those homes accounted for 12.5 percent of home sales in the region.
Agarwal also noted that the median monthly rent for a three-bedroom house was $376 more than a monthly mortgage payment, including taxes, for a median-priced existing house.
“It is time to buy and not to rent," Agarwal said. "Housing is quite affordable these days."