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Commonwealth's Counties

House Transportation Committee greenlights legislation empowering localities

On January 14, following a meeting of the House Transportation Systems Subcommittee, the House Transportation Committee unanimously reported HB 1903 (Carr) by a vote of 19-0. This bill authorizes local governing bodies to adopt ordinances to reduce the speed limit to less than 25 miles per hour, but not less than 15 miles per hour, on any highway within its boundaries that is located in a business district or residence district provided the reduced speed limit is indicated by lawfully placed signs. If enacted, this legislation will enable local governments to respond to the needs of their communities more effectively and hopefully help reduce traffic incidents and pedestrian fatalities. Comprehensive transportation safety legislation containing this provision failed to pass during the 2020 General Assembly Session. VACo is thankful to the bill’s patron, and VACo staff provided comments in support of the legislation, which now advances to the House floor.

Additional legislation providing greater flexibility to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and local governments also advanced out of the Committee. HB 1813 (Krizek) increases the dollar limit from $600,000 to $700,000 on the value of highway maintenance and construction projects eligible to be performed by state or local employees. This Administration-supported bill updates the project dollar limit to reflect inflation and would provide statewide benefits by allowing VDOT and locally administered projects, where VDOT has delegated the administration of certain transportation projects, to proceed “in-house” without requiring procurement of an outside contract. This should allow for quicker completion of smaller projects such as minor bridge repairs, thus increasing the number of projects that can be performed. VACo is thankful to the patron, and VACo staff provided comments in support of the legislation, which now also advances to the House floor.

Lastly, HB 1893 (Hurst), which authorizes the creation of the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority, was reported and referred by the House Transportation Committee to the House Appropriations Committee by a 16-3 vote. This legislation is meant to facilitate the expansion of passenger rail services from Roanoke to Christiansburg. Amtrak service to Roanoke began in October 2017. Since that time, ridership has exceeded operating costs and prior to the pandemic, saw a growth of 14% in the first two months of 2020 over the previous year. In his introduced budget, Governor Ralph Northam proposed $50 million general funds in FY 2022 be allocated to the Commonwealth Transportation Board to achieve the proposed expansion of service.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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