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Commonwealth Transportation Board Meeting Reviews Impact of COVID-19 on Traffic Volume and Revenues

On June 17, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) held a workshop and regular meeting that discussed numerous issues, including COVID-19 traffic trends. This information is useful in correlation with declines in transportation revenue sources and measuring regional impacts of COVID-19 on traffic volumes. The agenda and a video recording of the meetings can be found here and here respectively.

Using data from 512 continuous count stations on roadways throughout the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) provided the CTB with a report on traffic volume trends and other items as of June 5. As to be expected, the declaration of a state of emergency, closure of schools and non-essential businesses, and other restrictions put in place to mitigate the public health threats posed by the initial spread of COVID-19 significantly reduced all vehicle traffic volumes in every region and on interstate and non-interstate roadways. Though traffic volumes have since increased towards pre-emergency declaration levels, at the height of this period, all vehicle traffic volumes were 64 percent lower on April 12 than they were last year. The full presentation and infographics may be found here.

As well as signifying a decrease in mobility and economic activity, the decrease in traffic volume had direct fiscal impacts to transportation funding. The three principle state sources of transportation funding accounting for approximately 55 percent Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund (HMOF) and Transportations Trust Fund Revenues all declined. In his report to the House Appropriations Committee on June 15, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne presented data showing that in the month of May, Motor Fuels Tax, Motor Vehicle Sales Use Tax, and State Sales and Use Tax were down 24.1 percent, 33.3 percent, and 11.6 percent respectively compared to May of 2019. As previously reported, legislation enacted from the 2020 General Assembly session Is expected to yield significant state and regional transportation revenues. However, much of this revenue is tied to increases in motor fuel taxes. Though traffic volume and by extension fuel purchases are rebounding, the data from VDOT shows the vulnerability of these revenue sources to economic slow downs brought on by COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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