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Wednesday, March 27, 2013    

Virginia Gov. McDonnell amends transportation package, comments on port authority


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell yesterday proposed amendments to a major transportation funding compromise bill recently passed by the General Assembly.

While the bill "substantially meets the goals" he established when he called for transportation investment and reform to be a top state priority in 2013, the changes he proposed would ensure the bill would not have a negative impact on businesses and citizens, McDonnell administration officials said in a prepared statement.

As amended, the bill would reduce the gas tax by 35 percent and replace it with a sales tax that grows with the economy, uses $200 million in current general funds and another $200 million in future general funds from the federal Marketplace Fairness Act, and ensures that alternative fuel vehicles pay a share of the maintenance of roads, they said.

"Virginia is now faced with the need to invest in our transportation system to ensure that our highway, rail and public transportation infrastructure is safe, efficient and reliable," McDonnell said.

Meanwhile, the governor also issued a statement in response to the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) board's decision yesterday to restructure its operating company and overhaul its long-term strategy. The actions followed an 18-month review of the port's operations, including the evaluation of two proposals from private entities to assume operation of the port.

In 2011, McDonnell assigned the board the task of reviewing port operations and coming up with a strategy to increase cargo volumes and return the port to profitability.

"The VPA has determined that the commonwealth should focus on the major restructuring of the current operations, organization, strategy and leadership, and to end the unsolicited proposals under the Public-Private Transportation Act," McDonnell said in a prepared statement.

He and the state's transportation secretary now will review the board's actions and issue a final response, McDonnell said.

"The board has completed significant operational and management improvements at the port in recent months," McDonnell said. "The secretary of transportation has worked closely with the board to enable them the flexibility, information and support to improve business operations, enhance marketing and attract new investments. This has already resulted in increases in port volume."

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