Thursday, December 28, 2006

Transportation - Virginia's House Republicans Play Fast and Loose

Two articles from the Washington Post highlight the transportation crisis in Virginia: Virginia House Puts Onus on Counties for Road Crisis

Anyone could see that development has taken place too fast and with too little concern for transportation or even accessibility from the new subdivisions to local shopping centers. In going past Centreville I've noticed that it would be impossible simply to walk out the developments on the right side of the road and cross the street to the shopping centers on the left. It's too dangerous. There seems to have been little planning in many of these developments for alternative routes to the main roadways, to alternative methods of transportation including walking and biking, or for easy access for people who live in the neighborhood but feel compelled to drive a car to their shopping centers just for the protection it offers. However, as the article notes

The GOP legislation unveiled at the Capitol largely takes aim at future development by requiring local governments or homeowners associations to maintain new subdivision roads. It does not give local governments greater authority to deny subdivision developments because of traffic impact, a power supervisors have requested for years.

The rest of the state enjoys the revenues produced by all the new Northern Virginia residents and businesses. Northern Virginia's economy drives the rest of the state, but reactionaries like Howell and company will not allow localities to do anything to curb the developments which bring this revenue but want to make them responsible for solving the transportation problems the development offers. This is an unwarranted abdication of state responsibility. The WaPo editorial calls it in The Snooker Strategy

On taking office at the start of the year, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) did the sensible thing by proposing a tax package that would yield $1 billion annually for transportation statewide. The Republican-dominated state Senate backed him. But Republicans who control the House of Delegates would have none of it. Instead, after a generation of neglect, they have decided to attack the problem of Virginia's roads with press releases ... Rather than proposing a long-term fix for a long-term problem, they proudly announce that they favor spending what amounts to a pittance -- half of the state's current $500 million surplus -- on one-time transportation projects. Never mind that they have no viable plan for sustaining that already inadequate spending next year and the year after, since surpluses never last and cyclical downturns are inevitable. Never mind that once the money they propose spending is divvied up statewide, it would result in barely enough to build a decent interchange and a few precious miles of highway in Northern Virginia. Never mind that soaring highway maintenance costs are already gobbling up state funds meant for road construction to the tune of $450 million a year, which is approximately twice the amount the House Republicans propose spending on transportation from the current surplus. And never mind that skyrocketing costs for road materials and construction compound the cost of foot-dragging on a long-term solution. None of that bothers the House Republicans, because they're really more interested in scoring PR points than in building roads.

Mr. Kaine, stymied in his attempts to fashion a sustainable program of new funding, proposes spending an additional $161 million in surplus funds on transportation improvements during the coming fiscal year. (That, in addition to $339 million in surplus funds left over from last year.) It is, as the governor recognizes, a drop in the bucket and one that must be weighed against competing funding demands for public safety, schools and the poor. It would do nothing for Metro, which is slowly strangling from lack of revenue; for widening Interstate 66 inside the Beltway; or for the staggering improvements needed around Fort Belvoir, where 20,000 defense jobs are to be relocated -- let alone projects elsewhere in the state.

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