HEADLINES : Virginia
Delay on tolls could ease budget impasse
Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday took steps to remove a major point of contention that threatens to block approval of a new two-year state budget when lawmakers return to Richmond today.
The governor announced that he requested the Commonwealth Transportation Board to allocate up to $100 million to cover the cost of tolls on the Midtown and Downtown tunnel project in Hampton Roads. McDonnell's proposal could delay the toll collections until January 2014.
Tolls - a component of the financing for the $2.1 billion project - were scheduled to begin in late summer and have drawn strong opposition in the region.
Lawmakers from the area had pushed unsuccessfully for funding in the amended $85 billion budget to mitigate the tolls, but the money was left out of the draft agreement approved April 5 by negotiators for the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate.
McDonnell's Hampton Roads overture, however, still leaves one transportation-related issue to be resolved before approval of the spending plan can be assured in the evenly divided Senate. Democratic senators are seeking $300 million in financing for Northern Virginia to reduce tolls being used to finance an extension of Metrorail to Washington Dulles International Airport.