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Governor Terry McAuliffe delivers final State of the Commonwealth Address

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered his final State of the Commonwealth Address on Wednesday evening from Richmond. / File photo.

The following is the transcript of the Jan. 10, 2018 Governor’s Address to the General Assembly:

Ladies and gentlemen – my fellow Virginians – good evening.

Speaker Cox, Senator Newman, Justices of the Supreme Court, ladies and gentlemen of the Virginia General Assembly, I appreciate the opportunity to address you one final time.

Before I begin, I would like to thank Speaker Bill Howell for his many years of service to this Commonwealth and to tell him and his family that we are all praying for his speedy recovery.

I would also like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to this historic office.

I am so proud to be joined this evening by so many people who have worked tirelessly to help this administration and this Commonwealth succeed.

We have with us my incredible wife and my better half: First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.

Her leadership on childhood nutrition has resulted in more than 12 million more meals served to our students this year than in my first year in office.

And her work on behalf of our military students and their families has ensured that Virginia will remain the #1 place in the world for our service-members and their loved ones to call home.

Thank you, Dorothy, for your leadership, your dedication and the real positive impact you have made on Virginia families and our economy.

I also want to recognize and thank our five children, four of whom are here with us tonight.

Dori, Jack, Mary, Sally, and Peter – Thank you for the support you have given to this family and this governorship over the past four years.

Our lieutenant governor, and Governor-elect, Dr. Ralph Northam and our next First Lady Pam are with us tonight as well.

Ralph, I have been so fortunate to have you as my Lieutenant Governor, and my friend. I know you will make a GREAT 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia with Pam by your side!

To our Attorney General Mark Herring, thank you for your unwavering dedication to upholding the law and protecting the rights of all Virginians.

I have loved every minute working with Ralph and Mark, and I know they will continue that great work alongside Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax over the next four years.

And to my entire cabinet and team, you have all been spectacular – especially my Chief of Staff Paul Reagan and Deputy Chief Suzette Denslow – I thank you for never being afraid to think big and try new things.

But, there’s one cabinet secretary in particular who I think has helped all of us in this chamber sleep a little better at night.

Finance Secretary Ric Brown will soon retire after 47 years of dedicated service to our Commonwealth.

Ric, you have made an historic contribution to the people of Virginia and we are all grateful for your leadership.

The men and women of my cabinet have done tremendous work over the past four years, but our accomplishments would not be possible without the most talented and dedicated state employee workforce anywhere on the globe.

I am proud that we have been able to work together to get them two well-deserved pay raises and I hope you will accept my proposal for another one.

Please join me in recognizing the 110,000 Virginia state employees for all of their hard work.

We are also fortunate to have the greatest first-responders, law enforcement, National Guard, active-duty military, and veterans in the nation right here in Virginia.

We should never forget that these men and women put their lives on the line every day so that we can gather here safely tonight.

It is hard to believe that it’s been four years since I first stood at this desk and spoke to you about what I hoped to achieve as governor. In that speech, I promised to work with you to build a new Virginia economy, one that works better for everyone.

That was a tall order at the time. The economic model that served Virginia well for decades had begun to crumble as our overreliance on federal spending left us exposed to shutdowns, sequestration and significant defense cuts.

Many of the underpinnings of our economy like our transportation, education and workforce development systems were in dire need of reform and investment.

Scandal had shaken the faith Virginians place in the integrity of their public officials, and years of partisan warfare on divisive social issues had damaged our reputation with employers all over the world.

The agenda that I presented to you in this chamber four years ago, and every year after that, was designed to solve those problems and open a new chapter of growth and opportunity in every corner of our great Commonwealth.

Four years later, we can all look back with pride on the record of accomplishment we have built by working together to build a new Virginia economy.

We reformed how we make transportation decisions to prioritize their benefit to Virginians and our economy over the desires of politicians.

If you recall, when I took office Virginia had just wasted $300 million on the Route 460 project, a road that was never going to be built.

In contrast, thanks to our reforms, we are transforming the Interstate 66 corridor, using no state dollars and saving taxpayers a net $2.4 billion.

And just this morning, I announced a deal to extend the I-95 HOT Lanes 10 miles South to Fredericksburg without asking taxpayers for a single dollar for construction.

In fact, this project will require the builder to cut Virginians a check for more than $277 million by the time the project opens.

We took the Port of Virginia off the market and invested $670 million, turning it around after five straight years of losses.

Today, it’s profitable for the third straight year and attracting some of the biggest container ships in the world.

We took executive action to make Virginia a leader in reducing carbon and combating climate change, and we built a new clean energy economy from the ground up.

In addition to being one of the first states in the nation to announce an offshore utility wind project, I am particularly proud of the progress we have made on solar energy.

When we took office, Virginia was home to 17 megawatts of installed capacity. Today, we have more than 2,600 installed or under development.

Even in times of fiscal difficulty, we protected K-12 education from budget cuts, and worked together to make the largest investment in education in the history of Virginia.

We reformed the Standards of Learning and eliminated five tests, transformed our workforce training programs, and redesigned our high school curriculum to better align it with the needs of a 21st Century economy.

When draconian regulations threatened to shutter nearly all of Virginia’s women’s health clinics, we stood as a brick wall to protect women’s access to care.

We reformed our ethics laws to restore the people of Virginia’s trust that we are here working for them, not for ourselves.

We passed the first meaningful gun safety laws in more than two decades.

We expanded access to critical health services for the people who need them most.

We were the first state in the nation to bring a functional end to veteran homelessness and we connected more than 31,000 veterans with good jobs right here in Virginia.

We modernized and secured our elections system.

We transformed our criminal justice system, which has posted the lowest recidivism rate in the United States of America for the second year in a row!

Like any relationship, we have had our rough patches.

I, for one, did not come into this job expecting the Republican leadership of the General Assembly to sue me for contempt over restoration of rights.

But I think the fact that I was the first Governor to receive such an honor only underscores what a TRULY historic four years this has been for Virginia.

But despite a few bumps in the road, our work together has been defined far more by serious policy accomplishments than by partisan warfare, and the people of Virginia are better for it.

Every step we took tied back to our mission of building a New Virginia Economy. And job creators are taking notice.

As a testament to that, tonight I am proud to announce that Service Center Metals will invest $45.2 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Prince George County.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Virginia successfully competed against Indiana for the project, which will create 58 new jobs for Virginia workers.

This announcement is important because of the opportunity it will create for Virginia families, but it also has a larger significance.

With this project, and the over 1,100 others we have announced, Virginia has now attracted more than $20 billion in new capital investment since I took office.

That record exceeds any previous governor by more than $6.5 billion dollars.

Service Center Metals’ Co-founder Chip Dollins and the Chairman of the Prince George County Board of Supervisors, Alan Carmichael are with us this evening — thank you for your confidence and continued investment in Virginia.

The investments, policy decisions and economic development successes of the past four years have contributed to a new chapter of economic growth in our Commonwealth.

After 35 domestic and international trade missions across five continents, we have seen Virginia’s agriculture exports skyrocket 30% from $70 billion in 2014 to $91 billion in 2017.

Tourism revenues have grown by $2.2 billion since we took office.

Personal income is up 12.3 percent.

Our initial unemployment claims are at a 43-year low.

There are more than 200,000 more jobs today than in 2014.

In 2017 alone Virginia created 33,700 net new jobs, compared with the 1,500 that were created the year before I took office.

We’ve driven unemployment down to 3.7 percent from 5.4 percent. In fact, every single city and county in Virginia has seen a drop in unemployment.

These are not just numbers. They are a reflection of the remarkable turnaround we’ve seen in the Virginia economy over the past four years.

They translate to real jobs and real opportunities for thousands of families.

As the most traveled governor in the nation, I can also tell you firsthand that they translate to even more economic activity as we have told this amazing story to job creators across the nation and the world.

Virginia is a different place than it was four years ago, and for that we should all be proud. But there is still more work to do.

I may not be here to continue the battle – but the budget proposal I am leaving behind reflects the enormous progress we have made and the need to keep moving forward.

In my first year in office, we were forced to work together to deal with an inherited $2.4 billion shortfall.

Since then, our bipartisan cooperation and Virginia’s strong economic growth have improved our financial picture significantly.

In fact, I know you will be happy to hear that, the first six months of the current fiscal year, revenue collections are up 5.9 percent over last year, well ahead of our estimate of 3.4 percent, which we have already revised upward.

That means we are running nearly half a billion dollars ahead of our revised forecast heading into the final six months of the fiscal year.

Virginia’s strong revenue picture is a clear sign of a growing economy – and the budget I have presented to you builds on that momentum.

It invests in the essentials of a modern economy like public education and workforce training.

It strengthens our Commonwealth’s response to our ongoing mental health and opioid crises.

It advances the work we have done to diversify our economy so that we no longer rely on one industry for our future economic growth.

That is so important today because Virginia is no longer JUST a defense-industry state.

We’re a cyber state, an advanced manufacturing state, a data analytics state.

We’re a bioscience state, a renewable energy state and an unmanned systems state.

By making the right decisions and investments, we have built a new Virginia economy – and the budget I leave you will keep that momentum going.

In addition to the budget, this year presents a unique opportunity to move Virginia forward on a number of issues that are important to the health, safety and prosperity of the families we serve.

Yesterday, Governor-elect Northam and I stood together and outlined several pieces of legislation that we hope the new General Assembly will pass this year.

They include:

Reducing obstacles to voting by doing away with barriers to absentee voting.

Keeping families safe from gun violence by requiring background checks for every firearm purchase.

Building on the executive actions my administration is pursuing to cut carbon and create clean energy jobs by becoming the first Southern State to formally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Closing a loophole in our ethics laws by prohibiting the personal use of campaign funds.

Finally raising the threshold for felony larceny from $200 to $1000 so that one mistake does not ruin a person’s entire life.

Giving Virginians the tools to manage student debt and hold predatory lenders accountable by passing a Borrower’s Bill of Rights and creating a state ombudsman for student debt.

None of these items are inherently political. They are proposed solutions to real policy problems. It could well be the case that there are better ideas to solve these problems and make life better for Virginians. Those are the questions we were all elected to consider.

We were not, however, elected to ignore problems like these or allow real solutions to become bogged down in the mud of partisan politics and special interests.

As I look across this room, I see many new faces. The people of Virginia, in their wisdom, have made significant changes to the composition of this General Assembly with a simple message in mind: work together to get things done.

That is the opportunity they have given you – to do things differently than they have been done in the past, and to finally break the gridlock on issues where we haven’t made as much progress as we should.

The chief issue that demands your attention is making a clear statement that, in a new Virginia economy, health care is not a privilege for the few – it is a right for all.

You can make progress on that goal by bringing our tax dollars home to provide health care for nearly 400,000 Virginians who need it.

The plan I have submitted would create 30,000 jobs and free up $422 million in our budget to invest in priorities like a state employee pay increase and a $427 million contribution to our reserve fund, all without putting a single Virginia tax dollar on the table.

As some of you may recall, expanding Medicaid to cover working Virginians who lack access to health care is an issue I am deeply passionate about.

I am passionate because I know, as many of you do, the benefit it would bring to our economy and to our budget.

I am passionate because I have met hospital administrators in rural communities who say they need it to survive.

Above all, I am passionate because I have looked mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in the eye and heard how they cannot work, they cannot care for their families, they cannot live the lives that they deserve because they cannot get the health care they need.

You can end the waiting, the hurt, the worry for those Virginians and put them on a path to greater opportunity and productivity.

You can shore up rural hospitals that are struggling to stay open because they still care for these Virginians but they are not being reimbursed for their expenses.

And you can do all of that while creating 30,000 jobs and realizing more than $400 million in savings in the next budget alone.

Listen to the clear message the people of Virginia sent on Election Day.

Put the politics aside. It’s time to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As you prepare to write the next chapter of our Commonwealth’s history, I hope you will remember several principles that have guided our work over the past four years.

While other states have grappled with discriminatory and socially divisive legislation and the damage it does to their economies, Virginia has capitalized on their misfortune.

As you know, I absolutely hated having to veto a record 120 bills – but those bills took Virginia in the wrong direction.

They attacked women’s rights, equality for LGBT people, and access to the voting booth. They hurt the environment and they made Virginia less safe. I honestly wish they’d never made it to my desk.

I vetoed those bills because, in a new Virginia economy, we are about the business of bringing people together and lifting everyone up, not tearing them apart or dragging them down.

In the coming years, I hope you will build on that foundation by using your voices and your votes to make Virginia more equal, more just, and more prosperous for all people, no matter whom they are, where they live or whom they love.

Another guiding principle that has served this administration well is the incredible importance of second chances.

No one lives a perfect life. We all do things we regret. We all make mistakes. Personally, the next time someone offers me a ride on a horse in Africa, I’ll take a seat at the bar instead.

For most of us, what defines our lives is how we learn from those mistakes and move forward.

I believe that should apply to everyone, even men and women who commit a crime.

Over the past four years, we have worked, often hand-in-hand with the General Assembly, to reshape our criminal justice system to reflect the principle that no person is beyond redemption or unworthy of a second chance.

That approach guided the transformation of our Commonwealth’s juvenile justice system as we reduced the population by nearly two-thirds and began to close our two huge adult-style youth prisons.

This session, I hope you will authorize the construction of the first of two facilities to replace them and advance the reforms that will prepare these young people to lead more productive lives, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

The power of second chances also defined my proudest moment as governor. Many of you have heard me tell the story of standing on the steps of this building and ending more than 100 years of disenfranchisement and racial discrimination.

Since then, my team has worked with all three branches of government to finalize a process that we have used to restore the rights of more than 173,000 Virginians, more than any governor in the history of the United States of America!

Over the years, I have met hundreds of men and women whose rights were restored during my term. I’ve even introduced you to some from this desk.

Every one of those Virginians represents the same story of hope for a better life that we saw play out just this past election day, as these men and women went to the polls, many of them for the first time in their lives.

If you want to see the power of second chances, watch the videos that were posted on social media as grown men and women broke down in tears of joy after doing something that most people take for granted – voting in an election.

That is what citizenship looks like at its very best – and we should work together to encourage more of it, not less.

So as you begin your work together this session, I hope you will continue to reshape Virginia into a Commonwealth of second chances, where people who make mistakes can live among us again as redeemed human beings, not lifelong outcasts.

My final request I would like to leave you with this evening is to please do everything you can to make Virginia a beacon of hope, even in times of fear and hatred.

If restoring Virginians’ civil rights was my proudest moment as Governor, witnessing the bigotry and violence we saw last August in Charlottesville was the lowest.

That day was full of hatred, cowardice, and unspeakable loss.

But even in that dark moment, the character that makes this Commonwealth great shined through.

We saw it in the three Virginians who were taken from us on that terrible day.

Heather Heyer was a passionate 32 year old who was on the Downtown Mall on August 12th fighting for the values that make our Commonwealth and our country great.

She died fighting for what she believed in, and against hatred and bigotry.

When Neo-Nazis and white supremacists invaded her community, she stood up and met their hatred with love.

Trooper-Pilots Jay Cullen and Berke Bates were standing watch from above, protecting the people who participated in the day’s events – all of them.

They made the ultimate sacrifice doing what so many of their brothers and sisters in law enforcement continue to do every day – upholding the belief that every person should be protected by the law, no matter whom they are.

Nothing will bring these brave Virginians back.

But as we continue to mourn their loss, I hope we will honor their legacy by finding the good in each other and in our Commonwealth, even in times of great challenge.

Tonight we are joined several people who loved these fine Virginians and miss them every day, as we all do.

Won’t you please join me in welcoming Heather Heyer’s mother Susan, her stepfather Kim, Berke Bates’ wife Amanda and Jay Cullen’s wife Karen and son Ryan.

Before I move on, I do want to say a brief word about Jay, Berke and many men and women like them. Until you become governor, it can be difficult to fathom how many people work day and night to facilitate your daily movements and keep you safe.

From the moment I took office, countless public officials have gone above and beyond to ensure that my family and I can perform our duties and live our lives in safety and comfort.

They include the Capitol Police, the pilots at the Virginia State Police and the Department of Aviation, and the staffs at the Executive Mansion and on Capitol Square.

This evening, we are joined by one man who has given more than 32 years faithful years to the service of this Commonwealth.

Martin “Tutti” Townes, the Head Butler at the Virginia Executive Mansion, has served nine governors.

Despite those decades of service, he told me this is his first time attending a State of the Commonwealth Address – which I think is fitting since I have no doubt who his favorite governor is.

Tutti, I want to thank you, your family, and your entire team for the amazing work you have done for our family, our guests and all of the people of this great Commonwealth.

There is one group of public servants who draw a particularly difficult assignment – the men and women of the Executive Protection Unit of the Virginia State Police.

These brave souls are assigned to spend all of their waking hours with the Governor, the First Lady and our family, protecting us and helping us get from place to place. Before Berke Bates became a Trooper Pilot, he spent nearly three years as a member of my EPU detail.

He and his colleagues worked around the clock (and I really do mean around the clock) to keep us safe during our official activities, and in the process, also joined us for our family dinners and holidays, and countless sporting and school events. They became a part of our family, often at the expense of time spent with their own.

I can still remember the day, on one of our many car rides together some months in to our administration, when Berke Bates told me that, while he had not voted for me, he had finally decided that he was glad I won.

Dorothy and I, our children and my entire team cannot say thank you enough to the men and women of the Virginia State Police Executive Protection Unit for all they do for us and for our Commonwealth.

As this chapter in my life and the history of our Commonwealth comes to a close, I want to say how truly grateful I am to the people of Virginia for the honor of serving as your governor.

I often make a joke about how unlikely it is that I would serve as a successor to Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.

The joke is funny because it’s true – not many middle-class kids from Syracuse, New York find themselves speaking from this particular desk.

But at the heart of that joke is a statement about the singular privilege it is to be the chief executive of a Commonwealth with the people, the resources, the history, and the potential that ours has.

As you all know, I have loved every second that I have spent in this job – because it’s one of the few on Earth where you get to get up every morning and make an immediate positive impact on the people you serve.

That wouldn’t be possible without the men and women who serve in the Virginia General Assembly.

We run separate branches of government, but we serve the same cause – the good of the people of this Commonwealth.

We have had our disagreements, but even at difficult moments, I have never lost sight of the tremendous honor it is to work with you and the incredible dedication and professionalism that you bring to the task of representing your constituents.

So I want to thank you as well, for your leadership, your dedication and the many ways that you helped make this administration a success.

Four years ago, at my inauguration, I promised you that when this day came, the next Governor would inherit a Virginia that has created more economic opportunity and grown our 21st century industries.

I promised to transform pre-K and K-12, workforce development, and higher education to prepare students for a new economy.

I promised to maintain our reputation for strong fiscal management.

I promised to make Virginia the greatest place in the world for our veterans and military service-members and their families to call home.

I promised to make Virginia a leader in the clean energy economy and do our part to fight climate change.

I promised to be a brick wall to protect the rights of women and LGBT Virginians from discrimination.

Four years later, we have kept those promises. And we are a Commonwealth of greater equality, justice and opportunity for all people as a result.

That is a legacy we can all be proud of.

Thank you. God bless you and this great Commonwealth of Virginia.

State News

Governor’s proposed budget to feature increased funding to ensure key student supports for safe learning environments

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced his proposed budget will feature an additional $39 million in new money for investments to ensure safe learning environments for Virginia’s K-12 students. In addition to a raise in teacher salaries announced Monday, Governor Northam also is proposing to allocate $36 million to fund additional school counselors for school divisions across the Commonwealth.

“Virginia is a nationally-recognized leader on school safety, but creating a safe learning environment means ensuring all of our students receive proper supports, including access to mental health professionals,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s school counselors play a critical role in creating a positive school climate and engaging with our students—they are an important source of support in the education system and we need more of them. We can create safer learning environments for Virginia’s students by taking a more holistic approach, and adding school counselors is integral to our success.”

Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Eleven, re-establishing the Children’s Cabinet and creating a Student Safety Work Group chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. The diverse group of stakeholders convened to develop recommendations to enhance the safety of students and schools, centering focus on the individual safety and well-being of Virginia’s students. A number of the work group’s recommendations are reflected in the budget proposals announced today.

Virginia schools reported 9,238 threat assessments in 2017—50 percent of which were threats of harm to self. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school-aged youth nationally, and in Virginia. Taking steps to provide additional supports to students, raise awareness about suicide, and ensure students, school professionals, public safety personnel and community members are equipped with appropriate training and intervention skills are critical to a holistic school safety strategy. The $36 million proposal would be the first installment of a three-year, phased strategy to hire enough school counselors to reduce caseloads to 1:250 across all grade bands, the nationally-recognized best practice. The state currently funds a ratio of 1:425 school counselors.

In addition, the governor’s budget will provide $3.3 million to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety, enabling it to fund critical positions; expand access to training for school professionals, school resource and security officers; supplement expired grant support for the annual school climate survey; and provide additional active shooter trainings. It also will add funding for a threat assessment case management tool, enabling consistent tracking and reporting of threat assessment data that will allow school and state leaders to better understand issues facing schools and direct resources accordingly.

“Investing in school counselors clearly demonstrates our commitment to best serving our students and all their needs,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “When it comes to the safety and well-being of our children, we can never be too vigilant. Providing funding for critical personnel, mental health supports, and highly relevant trauma-informed trainings is essential.”

“Virginia has long established itself a national leader on school safety, in large part because of the tremendous work of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Governor Northam’s significant investment will bolster their work and enable the Center to hire additional staff, create and offer cutting edge training to our school and law enforcement communities, and provide technical support to local school divisions.

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 18 to share the full details of his structurally balanced budget plan. The proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.

Governor Northam will unveil additional budget proposals this week. For more information on the schedule of events, click here.

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State police launching Instagram account, will reveal name of newest bloodhounds

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RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police is launching an official Instagram account on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. in a very big way!  The VSP account at instagram.com/virginia state police is now “live” on the photo-sharing app platform and at 11 a.m. Thursday will feature as its first post – a sneak preview of the names selected for the Department’s two newest bloodhounds.

Last month, state police invited the public to send in via Facebook their favorite names for the floppy-eared siblings. The Department’s K-9 Training Unit considered over  3,300 pairs of suggested names and narrowed them down to five for final consideration. Just shy of 1,500 Facebook followers cast their votes and the winning pair of names will be revealed on all three state police social media platforms by noon Thursday.

The Virginia State Police established itself on YouTube in 2009 and Facebook in 2010. A @VSPPIO Twitter page followed five years later. Today, the state police engages with more than 180,000 Facebook followers, approximately 13,500 Twitter followers and 1,500 YouTube viewers worldwide.

“Adding Instagram to the Virginia State Police social media portfolio enables us to reach a much greater audience with our key traffic safety messaging, crime prevention outreach, investigative alerts and recruitment efforts…and, of course, more photos of our canines,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “We look forward to engaging with the public via Instagram and sharing even more about the state police and our mission in service and safety to others.”

Instagram followers who connect with state police by 11 a.m. Thursday will be among the first to find out the winning names for the 11-week-old brother and sister bloodhounds pictured with Colonel Settle.

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Virginia awarded competitive $15.5 million federal grant for improvements at Virginia Inland Port

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that the Port of Virginia was awarded a $15,500,197 federal grant through the highly competitive Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grants process. The U.S. Department of Transportation is investing in surface transportation infrastructure through the BUILD program. Grant applicants vied for a total of $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding for projects supporting roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, or intermodal transportation. The Port of Virginia project was fully funded.

Projects were evaluated based on merit criteria that included safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership, and additional non-Federal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments.

“The Port of Virginia is a critical asset to the Commonwealth that generates jobs and serves as a gateway to global markets,” said Governor Northam. “These improvements will both enhance the safety and increase the capacity of the Virginia Inland Port, allowing the facility to receive Ultra Large Container Vessels and bringing new opportunities for international commerce to Virginia.”

The $15.5 million in BUILD grant funds will be used to build a highway bridge grade separation at the at-grade crossing on State Route 658 (Rockland Road). The project involves constructing a new bridge on State Route 658 that will run above the existing railroad tracks.

The Port is investing a total of $26 million in two projects at the Virginia Inland Port (VIP) designed to improve traffic flow and safety on a local road and expand the terminal’s overall cargo handling capabilities. The projects will be funded through two infrastructure grant programs, one federal and one state.

“The success of our multimodal transportation network depends upon the kind of collaboration that made this grant award possible,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “These improvements will allow the Inland Port to more efficiently move international freight to inland markets, opening Virginia’s economy to the world.”

The VIP terminal brings The Port of Virginia 220 miles closer to inland markets and improves service throughout the Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond by providing rail service to the terminals in Hampton Roads. VIP also consolidates and containerizes local cargo for export. As a direct result of the VIP facility opening in 1989 to help better distribute freight inland along highways and railroads, nearly 40 manufacturing and distribution centers have located in the region, creating roughly 8,000 direct and indirect jobs.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Barbara Comstock and Bob Goodlatte wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of the BUILD grant application. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation endorsed the application as well.

“This is a traffic flow and safety concern that is important to the community and we now have the funding to begin addressing this issue—we are grateful for the broad support this grant application received from members of our Congressional delegation, Virginia’s governor, regional economic development authorities, and the business community around VIP,” said CEO and Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority John F. Reinhart. “This is an important step forward in the evolution of the Virginia Inland Port. Our container volumes are growing, and inland destinations like VIP and Richmond Marine Terminal are vital to the efficient and predictable flow of cargo. We are investing now in order to build the port of the future.”

Inside the VIP terminal, the Port is investing $3.3 million, which will be matched by $7.7 million from the state’s Rail Enhancement Fund. The $11-million project will expand capacity and improve cargo flow at VIP. The optimization project consists of building three new railroad tracks on terminal (bringing to eight the total number of railroad tracks at VIP), lengthening the existing track, and purchasing two pieces of hybrid, low-emissions cargo moving equipment.

Virginia Inland Port is located in Front Royal, which is 220 miles northwest of the Norfolk Harbor. The terminal is situated at the intersection of interstates 81 and 66 and is connected by daily train service to the Port’s deep-water terminals in the harbor. The terminal is an important inland destination for container cargo that also helps to drive significant economic investment and job creation in the surrounding community.

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary Virginia International Terminals LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal.

A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 530,000 jobs and generated $88.4 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.

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VDOT cleanup continues as winter storm exits region

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RICHMOND, Va. – As the major winter storm exits the Commonwealth, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews remain focused on plowing and treating roads around the clock. With most interstates and primary routes in clear condition, VDOT crews may be able to shift focus to secondary routes and neighborhood streets. This slow-moving winter storm dropped record amounts of heavy snow across the southern and southwest parts of the state.

If possible, motorists should limit unnecessary travel, if possible. Snow removal equipment may move slower than other traffic, so motorists who must travel are encouraged to use extra caution. Crews are focused on focusing on plowing and pushing snow away from roadway shoulders, turn lanes, shaded areas and ramps. While daytime temperatures will assist in snow removal efforts, overnight temperatures may continue to cause potential refreeze and increase the likelihood for black ice.

VDOT’s goal is typically to make all roads passable within 48 hours after a storm’s end. Due to this particular storm’s heavy accumulations, outlying areas may experience longer response time frames as crews continue to progress.

What the public can stay safe if traveling:

Clear the snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof, hood and trunk and especially from the windows, mirrors and lights.
Always wear your seat belt.
Leave a few minutes early.
Start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.
Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.

Information resources:

Check current road conditions and watch real-time camera feeds of major routes at www.511virginia.org, or through the free mobile app or by phone.
Track VDOT snowplows online through http://vdotplows.org/. VDOT and contractor trucks are equipped with automatic vehicle location technology, and can be monitored to see general coverage areas. The website is activated at the local level, generally when snow accumulations reach approximately two inches or more.

Report severe road conditions to and ask questions of VDOT’s Customer Service Center team around the clock at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/ or by calling 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623).

Find more winter travel tips at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp

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Local News

Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of expected winter storm

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam on Saturday, December 8th, declared a state of emergency in advance of winter weather effects on southern Virginia anticipated to begin this weekend and last into the early part of next week.

“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Governor Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure localities and communities have appropriate assistance and to coordinate state response to possible snow and ice accumulations, transportation issues, and potential power outages.”

A s allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia National Guard and other pertinent agencies are already mobilizing and preparing for the impact of this storm.

To learn more about how to prepare yourself, your family and your business for winter weather, visit: www.vaemergency.gov/winter-weather. For real-time traffic conditions anywhere in the state, dial 5-1-1 or visit 511Virginia.org.

Governor Northam authorized a maximum of $500,000 in state sum sufficient funds for state and local government’s mission assignments authorized and coordinated through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management that are allowable as defined by The Stafford Act. This funding is also available for state response and recovery operations and incident documentation.
The order also provides authorization of an amount estimated at $500,000 for matching funds for the Individuals and Household Program, authorized by the Stafford Act (when presidentially authorized), to be paid from state funds.

This Executive Order shall be effective December 7, 2018, and shall remain in full force and in effect until January 6, 2019, unless sooner amended or rescinded by further executive order.

To read the text of the Governor’s Executive Order declaring this state of emergency visit https://www.governor.virginia.gov/executive-actions/.

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State News

Virginia to focus on maximizing assets to increase economic growth in all corners of the Commonwealth

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WILLIAMSBURG—Speaking at the Virginia Chamber Foundation’s 2018 Virginia Economic Summit, Governor Ralph Northam today presented his Comprehensive Economic Development Policy for the Commonwealth, which focuses on leveraging Virginia’s human capital, physical and virtual infrastructure assets, and innovation ecosystem. Building on the unique competitive advantages of each of Virginia’s regions, the plan sets forward an ambitious strategy for achieving economic growth in every region of the Commonwealth.

“One of my highest priorities as Governor is making sure that every region, every community, and every household can participate in the Commonwealth’s economic progress,” said Governor Northam. “While Virginia has experienced strong economic growth at the statewide level, there are still many regions that have yet to see the benefits, and we need a strategic path forward to make sure all parts of the state succeed. Working together with state, regional, and local leaders and the business community, I am confident Virginia can achieve shared prosperity and make our economy one of the strongest in the nation.”

This strategy lays out a vision and a path towards shared prosperity, by focusing on:

• Maximizing the Commonwealth’s human, natural, and man-made assets
• Maintaining and enhancing our leading business climate
• Supporting every Virginian in the pursuit of a productive, quality life
• Maximizing the benefits of taxpayer dollars

“The Commonwealth has had a banner year for economic development, and this strategic plan builds on this momentum and the many assets that already exist within every sector of Virginia’s economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Much work, however, is required to make sure all Virginians are able to reap the benefits of our economic success. We must grow our talented workforce, improve our infrastructure in order to connect all Virginians to the global marketplace, and expand the number of business-ready sites throughout the Commonwealth to take full advantage of economic development opportunities.”

The Code of Virginia requires each gubernatorial administration to develop and implement a written economic development policy for the Commonwealth. To guide the development of this plan, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball engaged a cabinet-level committee, as well as an advisory group of agency heads, regional and local leaders, and members of the business community in every part of the Commonwealth.

The Governor’s Comprehensive Policy for the Commonwealth is available here.

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