Congressional leaders are hopeful that a rare moment of unanimity between the White House and Democratic leadership could net some positive results for major infrastructure priorities for localities.
In the past few weeks, meetings between President Donald J. Trump and high-ranking Democratic congressional leaders have yielded optimism that there could be consensus reached on a federal spending bill to address the nation’s infrastructure needs. Although specifics are fleeting, and there is as yet no draft bill before Congress, potential projects could improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems.
Loudoun County Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles)’s day-job employer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been active in advocating passing an infrastructure spending bill. Letourneau’s approach is a bit more measured, though.
In a potential cart-before-the-horse move, while the nation’s infrastructure needs in total have not been identified, Trump and the two highest-ranking Democratic congressional leaders—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—have put the bill’s total funding at $2 trillion.
Letourneau, like many others, is anxious to hear where the $2 trillion in funding for the bill would come from before getting too excited about its impact.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” he said. “Until there’s agreement on how to pay for this, it’s really not going anywhere. We all agree there’s a problem and we all agree we need more money for infrastructure.”
Letourneau said any federal infrastructure funding package’s impacts likely would be felt more regionally, rather than by any one locality. Still, with Loudoun a funding partner for Metro, any help on funding transit projects could benefit Loudoun taxpayers, he said.
The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has not adopted a formal position on an infrastructure bill, but Grafton DeButts, the Chamber’s vice president of membership and government affairs, said they, too, are hopeful it could have a positive impact on Silver Line operations locally.
“We believe that federal investment in our local infrastructure projects are crucial for the long-term sustained growth of Loudoun’s economy,” he said. “The Chamber endorses a variety of funding sources, including an infrastructure funding bill, to support the significant investment phase two of the Silver Line is to Loudoun and the economic development benefits and opportunity that will be created in our community because of it.”
While there is no clear insight into what projects could benefit from such a bill, there is hope that it could get dirt moving much sooner for some needed improvements.
U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) recently submitted her list of infrastructure priorities for the 10th Congressional district in a May 1 letter sent to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A Leesburg resident, Wexton included among her list of priorities several big-ticket projects in Loudoun, including improvements to Rt. 15 north of Leesburg; the widening of Rt. 7 between Leesburg and Purcellville; and the expansion of Shellhorn Road in Ashburn. Wexton also called on Congress to reauthorize and increase funding for the FAST Act, which provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment, and to create dedicated annual funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
“An ideal infrastructure bill would include a serious federal investment in public transit systems such as Metro, increased funding for our roads, and a commitment to modernizing and expanding existing network infrastructure, including a real investment in rural broadband access,” she stated. “In Northern Virginia, we want to see significant reductions in congestion and time spent in traffic. Focusing on 21st century solutions that include enabling and promoting telecommuting, modern and efficient transit systems, and a highway system that’s not bogged down filling potholes and playing catch up, will help get us there.”
Another area eyed in the infrastructure spending package are bridge improvements. Improvements to Virginia’s bridges lie on the shoulders and responsibility of VDOT. Nationwide, the condition of America’s bridges has improved significantly over the past decade. Currently, 47,000 bridges in the U.S. are deemed “structurally deficient,” meaning they are in need of improvement, but are not unsafe for crossing. Twenty-eight bridges in the 10th District bear that distinction, including a handful in Loudoun.
One of those, the Dry Mill Road crossing over the W&OD Trail, ranks as the top most traveled bridge in Loudoun most in need of repair. The 1892-built bridge averages 2,814 daily crossings, according to data provided by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
Other Loudoun crossings on the “structurally deficient” list are the Allder School Road bridge over the Catoctin Creek; Cochran Mill Road over Tuscarora Creek; Piggot Bottom Road over Catoctin Creek; the Davis Court Bridge over Tuscarora Creek; and Paxson Road over North Fork Beaverdam Creek.