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Letter to Commonwealth Transportation Board

I am proud to have signed the following letter, urging the Commonwealth Transportation Board to include the factor of stormwater pollution reduction in prioritization of transportation projects.

Commonwealth of Virginia
General Assembly
Richmond

June 16, 2015

Commonwealth Transportation Board
Virginia Department of Transportation
1111 E. Broad St., Room 3054
Richmond, VA 23219

Re: Comments Regarding Proposed HB2 Implementation Policy Guide

Dear Members of the Board:

We are writing to provide comments on the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB’s) proposed HB2 Implementation Policy Guide (“Guide”).

We recognize the thoughtful work by stakeholders and other transportation professionals in developing the current draft. Nonetheless, we are concerned because the draft fails to require consideration of one of the most important environmental factors of increasing importance to Virginia localities: stormwater pollution control and its attendant costs. We recommend amending the Guide to require consideration of these issues.

Background
House Bill 2(1) plainly states that environmental factors must, along with project cost and other enumerated factors, be considered in setting transportation project priorities: “The prioritization process shall be based on an objective and quantifiable analysis that considers, at a minimum, the following factors relative to the cost of the project or strategy: congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, and environmental quality.”(2) Yet the Guide, as originally proposed, would require scant attention to be paid to environmental factors in general, (3) and none at all to stormwater pollution reduction.

Stormwater Pollution
This is a glaring omission. Virginia localities and entities like the Department of Transportation (VDOT) are governed by new, federally‐required stormwater permits (known as “municipal separate stormwater sewer system” or “MS4” permits) to reduce pollution from urban and suburban runoff. Within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, these permits call for increasingly stringent overall reductions in stormwater‐related nutrient and sediment pollution over the next 10‐15 years, (4) and MS4 localities have already expended significant time and resources in planning how to achieve and fund the required reductions. New transportation projects will create new runoff pollution patterns that could affect localities differently.

For example, a new road project could result in VDOT’s taking over responsibility for runoff reduction in some areas where the locality currently has that responsibility. Similarly, it is possible that the design of a new transportation project in a previously developed area could lead to modifications in (or elimination of) a locality’s current plan to reduce runoff through expensive stormwater retrofits.

Some estimates place future costs at over $2 billion in urban stormwater mitigation alone. If road projects result in new roads with appropriate facilities or redevelopment with modern facilities, it would have billions of dollars of benefits to taxpayers. These synergies should not be ignored and to the extent that transportation projects and associated redevelopment will create stormwater benefits (greater pollution reduction and/or cost reductions and saved taxpayer dollars) or detriments (increased runoff pollution and/or greater pollution reduction costs), the prioritization process should take account of them.

Stormwater Pollution Reduction Measure
We suggest, therefore, that the Environmental Quality Measures section of the Guide be revised to add a new measure, “stormwater pollution reduction.” The objective of this measure, which would apply to projects impacting localities within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, would be to recognize projects with stormwater pollution benefits by assigning points to proposed projects that will enable affected localities and other MS4 permittees to meet their respective MS4 pollution reduction requirements at a lower cost than would otherwise be required, and/or to enable affected localities and other MS4 permittees to achieve pollution reductions that exceed the minimum requirements of the applicable MS4 permit(s).

A project that shifts stormwater pollution responsibilities (or that lowers the cost of reducing stormwater pollution) from one MS4 to another MS4 without achieving an overall net benefit for all affected MS4s does not achieve this objective and would be awarded zero points for this measure.

While creating a quantifiable objective scoring system for the precise stormwater reduction benefits might have difficulties, they are not insurmountable. For example, alternative scoring methodologies might prove useful such as providing bonus points for projects that reduce a locality’s need to spend monies on expensive stormwater retrofits so that the benefits are at least taken into account in some measure.

Data sources
A detailed assessment of the stormwater pollution‐related effects would be premised on each MS4’s acre‐by‐acre calculation of runoff pollution within its jurisdiction (“serviced area”) as required by the MS4 permit and approved by the Department of Environmental Quality. (5)

We appreciate your consideration of this recommendation, which would give meaningful effect to the legislative call for consideration of relevant environmental factors in prioritizing transportation projects within the Commonwealth.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this recommendation with you.

Delegate Scott A. Surovell, 44th District

Delegate Patrick Hope, 47th District

Delegate Kaye Kory, 38th District

Delegate Alfonso Lopez, 49th District

Delegate David Bulova, 37th District

Delegate Rob Krupicka, 45th District

Delegate Ken Plum, 36th District

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, 47th District

Sentaor Adam Ebbin, 30th District

Senator Barbara Favola, 31st District

Senator David Marsden, 37th District

 

cc: Hon. Aubrey Layne, Virginia Secretary of Transportation
Chairman Sharon Bulova
Mayor William Euille
Chairman Mary Hughes Hynes

 

1 House Bill 2 (2014), codified at Va. Code § 33.1‐23.5:5B.1.

2 Va. Code § 33.1‐23.5:5B.1.

3 As originally proposed, the Guide’s Environmental Quality Measures section listed three measures, but only one of them (“air quality and energy,” considered jointly) actually focused on environmental quality. See Guide, at 27. The two other factors identified as “Environmental Quality Measures” ‐‐ access to jobs for disadvantaged populations and access to essential destinations for disadvantaged populations – are criteria best considered under the “Accessibility Measures” category.

4 See, e.g., Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (“MS4”) Permits for Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Henrico and Chesterfield Counties; anticipated Phase I MS4 permits for Cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesterfield, Hampton and Newport News; and the Phase II MS4 general permit covering approximately 100 localities and facilities.

5 E.g., the MS4’s DEQ‐approved Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan.