Virginia’s transportation funding plan was finally in place. ‘Then COVID-19 hit.’ | Govt-and-politics

Success came in 2013, when the assembly approved a $6 billion transportation funding package — sponsored by then-House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, and supported by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell — much larger in scope than they originally sought. The final package included long-sought regional funding for transportation priorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne, then a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said Southard played an important role in getting the bill passed, as well as subsequent legislation that led to the creation of the Smart Scale program for ranking state transportation projects and committing money to get them done.

“He was a steadfast proponent of transportation funding,” Layne said.

Later, as transportation secretary under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Layne said he initially clashed with Southard and his industry over reforms to the Public Private Transportation Act to protect the state’s interests in major highway deals with private developers to widen Interstate 66 and Interstate 95 in traffic-clogged Northern Virginia.

But they ultimately agreed on the reforms, and Southard “turned out to become a good ally,” Layne said.

The transportation construction alliance also supported a successful push last year for regional taxes to pay for $2 billion in improvements to I-81 and the omnibus transportation bill adopted this year that increased fuel taxes by 10 cents a gallon over two years, while also extending regional taxes for priority projects across the state.

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