RMA votes to refinance downtown expressway

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What would you do with an extra $62 million? That's the new question before the city. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority voted Tuesday afternoon to refinance the money owed on the toll road system and repay the city a decades old debt.

The RMA voted 11-0 to restructure and refinance its debt on the toll road system. That allows the board to repay the city the $20 million plus interest it gave to the RMA back in the 60's and 70's to help fund the fledging downtown expressway.

"This refinancing allows us to keep current tolls, pay back the city money and maintain the expressway asset in above average condition," said RMA spokesperson Mike Berry.

This also pushes back the date in which the road would fall under control of the city to 2041.

"The vote today was not unexpected, but is unfortunate for the citizens of Richmond," said Richmond councilman Bruce Tyler.

Tyler and four members of council signed a letter asking the RMA to wait. A majority of council wanted to study all the options, including the city gaining control of the road earlier than 2041, or possibly selling it to an independent company. Mayor Dwight Jones left the city council out of the decision and supported Tuesday's vote.

"I think a lot of the dialogue that had occurred in the last several days would not have occurred if the Mayor had done his homework up front," said Tyler. "We'd had those collaborative meetings that he always talks about."

Major Jones has said the money was owed and should be repaid. He disagrees with the idea- there's a big pay day out there the city is missing.

"People are missing the fact that even if we take the money, we don't lose the asset," said Jones.

What the city will do with that money is the next big debate. Nine council members and the Mayor are all wanting to fund different projects.

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