COMMUTE

Governor's transportation plan: $3 billion for Va. roads

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell unveiled his transportation funding plan worth nearly $3 billion. The plan will support more than 900 new transportation projects, including some notorious traffic spots in northern Virginia.

Among the new projects are proposals to widen a dreaded northern Virginia traffic bottleneck on Interstate 66 from Haymarket to Gainesville.

Other major projects include widening I-64 near Richmond and bridge improvements and replacements in each of the nine highway districts statewide. His office on Wednesday released the first version of its proposed six-year statewide road-building master plan.The plan is available online as well.

The 900-plus new projects bring the total to nearly 2,600 projects worth about $10.4 billion. The bulk of them are in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and Hampton Roads, the state's two most congested and populous regions. Northern Virginia's 587 projects account for almost 23 percent of the total, and Hampton Roads' 543 also includes more than one-fifth of the total.

Richmond would win approval for 385 projects, or 14 percent. Six districts representing the state's more rural areas would divide up the remaining 42 percent.

The six-year plan also includes about $2.3 billion for rail improvements, including upgrades to Norfolk Southern's tracks that largely parallel I-81, replacing worn-out Virginia Railway Express commuter line rail cars and helping to replace bus systems statewide.

McDonnell's transportation bill included $1.8 billion in state-backed bonds, $1.1 billion in bonds repaid from federal funds and $283 million to launch the new Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank.

Before the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes on the plan, it will hold four public hearings from late April through May 18. It's the richest investment in new roads, bridges and rail in years. From 2008 through last winter, the Commonwealth Transportation Board cut money available for its six-year program five times - reductions totaling $4.6 billion.

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