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FAQs

What does the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) do?  NVTA, also referred to as the Authority, funds transportation projects that are primarily intended to relieve traffic congestion in Northern Virginia.  30 percent of NVTA’s funds are distributed directly to the Authority’s member jurisdictions who then allocate it to transportation projects that meet their local needs.  The remaining 70 percent of NVTA’s funds are allocated to regional projects as evaluated by the Authority.

Where does NVTA get its revenue?  NVTA’s revenues result from legislation enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 (HB 2313).  Three existing taxes – Sales Tax, Grantor’s Tax, and Transient Occupancy Tax – were increased in Northern Virginia to generate the NVTA’s annual revenues of approximately $300 million.  In addition, the NVTA can finance projects through the issuance of long term bonds.  NVTA revenues would be used to repay debt service on the bonds.

What has the NVTA funded?  Since July 2013 when its revenue stream started, the NVTA has approved $535 million to fund 68 regional projects.  (This excludes the local projects being funded by the NVTA’s member jurisdictions using the 30% revenues.)  NVTA-funded regional projects include, but are not limited to, roadway widenings, grade separation of intersections and other intersection improvements, new Metrorail stations, new bus acquisitions, rail infrastructure improvements, and intelligent transportation systems.  Full details are available in the Authority’s 2014 Annual Report.

How does the NVTA decide which regional projects to fund?  There are a number of steps that have to be followed for a project to be selected for funding by the NVTA using its 70 percent revenues.  First, the project must be included in the Authority’s current long range transportation plan, entitled TransAction.  Second, the project must be evaluated under a 2012 law known as House Bill 599 or HB 599.  The HB 599 evaluation process rates each project on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the amount of congestion reduction it provides.  (The HB 599 process does not apply to any part of the state other than Northern Virginia.)  Finally, the Authority incorporates the HB 599 ratings for each project into its project selection process that considers additional criteria such as project readiness, urgency, safety and cost sharing.  The Authority gives priority to projects that provide the greatest congestion reduction relative to cost.

Can the NVTA fix roads, railroads, and bridges?  No, unless the need is part of a capacity expansion project.

Can the NVTA fund operations?  No, the NVTA cannot fund operations or maintenance costs.

Can the NVTA fund infrastructure improvements beyond Northern Virginia?  In general no, unless the project is only serving Northern Virginians, e.g. commuter buses from Northern Virginia to downtown Washington D.C.

Where do I find the Economic Interest Statements of the Authority members?  Economic Interest Statements of the Authority members should be filed with their respective jurisdictions.

I’ve got a great idea – who do I call?  It depends!  If you are not sure, send us an email to TheAuthority@thenovaauthority.org.

How can I find out about traffic conditions?  In addition to local media outlets, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) provides comprehensive information on traffic conditions throughout the state through its 511 telephone service and website.  This includes a dedicated website for Northern Virginia: http://www.511virginia.org/nova.  VDOT also hosts a 511 branded mobile app and Twitter feed @511northernva.

How do I plan a trip on transit?  There are numerous transit providers in Northern Virginia with each providing information on their respective services.  The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, or Metro) offers a transit trip planning website that includes its own services and those provided by other transit providers in Northern Virginia and across the Washington D.C. metropolitan area: https://www.wmata.com/schedules/trip-planner/.  The trip planner also provides fare information.  Metro and other local transit service providers use a common payment system, known as SmarTrip®.  WMATA also posts bus and rail alerts via its @Metrorailinfo and @Metrobusinfo Twitter feeds.

How do the Express Lanes work?  Express Lanes have been added in both directions to part of the Capital Beltway (I-495), and in the peak direction on I-95 outside the Capital Beltway and I-395 inside the Capital Beltway.  These lanes are available to autos but not trucks, and can provide faster journey times than adjacent regular travel lanes.  A toll is charged to use the Express Lanes at all times, unless there are three or more people in the vehicle.  The toll varies according to traffic conditions.  Each vehicle must be equipped with an E-ZPass® toll tag.  Vehicles with three or more occupants must have an E-ZPass® Flex℠ toll tag.  More information can be found at: https://www.expresslanes.com/ and on Twitter @VAExpressLanes.

How do I rideshare?  For commuters who do not want to drive, a variety of alternatives are available through Commuter Connections, the rideshare program for the D.C. metropolitan area: http://www.commuterconnections.org/commuters/.  In addition, VDOT provides information about Park and Ride opportunities in Northern Virginia: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/parkride/home.asp.

I want to report a problem; who do I call?  Again, it depends.  For potholes, check out VDOT’s pothole website: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/faq-potholes.asp.  For traffic signals not working, check out VDOT’s website: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/faq/traffic_lights.asp.  For specific transit service enquiries, contact your local transit provider.  If you are not sure, send us an email to TheAuthority@thenovaauthority.org.

Is the NVTA the only government agency involved in transportation in Northern Virginia?  No, in fact there are quite a few.  The NVTA regularly partners with the two state agencies that are heavily involved in surface transportation in Northern Virginia – VDOT and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).  VDOT is responsible for most of the roads in Virginia.  DRPT is responsible for improving the mobility of people and goods, while expanding transportation choices in the Commonwealth.  Both VDOT and DRPT have their own funding sources for transportation projects and sometimes jointly fund transportation projects with the NVTA.  Certain types of state funding are subject to a statewide prioritization process mandated under a 2014 law known as House Bill 2 or HB 2.  The HB 2 process is somewhat similar to the HB 599 evaluation process mentioned above, but is applied on a statewide basis not just in Northern Virginia.  Occasionally, some NVTA projects are subject to both the HB 2 and the HB 599 processes.

The NVTA also partners with several regional agencies – the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) for the National Capital Region and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC).  TPB is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.  NVTC is responsible for planning, coordinating, and securing funding for transit systems that are financially sustainable and high performing, and is the recipient of NVTA regional funds for a study of transportation alternatives along the Route 7 corridor inside the Capital Beltway.  NVTC jointly owns the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) with the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC).  VRE provides commuter rail service from the Northern Virginia suburbs to Alexandria, Crystal City and downtown Washington, D.C., along the I-66 and I-95 corridors.  PRTC operates regional and local transit services in Northern Virginia.  Both VRE and PRTC are recipients of NVTA regional funds for various projects.