- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

Funds for Virginia's new transportation development plan come with a price, which some localities in Northern Virginia will have to pay, a top state transportation official said yesterday.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Arthur N. Bowen III yesterday said areas to receive extra funds to expedite transportation projects will get less money from the state in future years.
Under the Virginia Transportation Development Plan, those areas will have to pay the interest on money the state borrows, based upon what they expect to get from the federal government, he said.
"It will come out of the future cash flows that they would have received," said Mr. Bowen. "They won't be writing us a check, but it will be deducted from their future allocations."
Under the newly announced transportation plan, Northern Virginia is expected to get nearly a third of $10 billion the state anticipates spending over the next six years.
This year, Northern Virginia will receive $617 million of the state's $2.19 billion transportation budget.
Virginia has devised some creative financing to pay for the $3 billion tacked on to its new spending blueprint.
Mr. Bowen said the transportation projects getting a jump-start are being funded primarily by the issuance of $1.1 billion in bonds, known as Federal Highway Reimbursement Anticipation Notes (FRAN), that will be repaid from future federal transportation allocations.
Virginia this year will sell $541 million in bonds at 4.9 percent interest beginning with the first sale of $375 million next month, he said.
That will cost $12 million in interest payments, Mr. Bowen said, noting the state will be repaying the bonds over 10 years.
Specifically, Northern Virginia will get $143.5 million this year in FRAN funds, meaning the region will pay roughly $7 million in interest that would be deducted from future revenue.
"Let's say they are getting 30 percent of the FRAN bond-share proceeds, then they would pay back 30 percent," Mr. Bowen said.
Some local lawmakers say borrowing from future revenue is risky.
"Basically, they are taking money out of my left pocket to pay for programs in my right pocket," said Christopher Zimmerman, chairman of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors. "Thanks for nothing."
Mr. Zimmerman said the state isn't looking far enough ahead and is taking funds from the budgets of future administrations that might need the money.
"Just because we have needs now doesn't mean we don't have needs tomorrow," he said. "This doesn't get out of the jam. Someone else is going to have to pay the bill when these people are gone."
Alexandria Vice Mayor William D. Euille said at first he was glad to see so many projects being funded but "having said that, however, there are some strings attached."
Virginia Transportation Secretary Shirley J. Ybarra said those griping about the new plan are "being shortsighted."
"We are only borrowing against a small portion of our federal funds so we are not subject to the kind of inflation that we have seen in the construction industry," Miss Ybarra said. "We have a very prudent approach to how much we'll spend."

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