factions are grappling over how much more money to
spend on transportation. But they're not
addressing critical questions regarding spending
priorities and the role of the private sector.
again, 60 days has proven to be insufficient time
for Virginia's legislature and governor to iron
out their budget differences. They are engaged in
another game of “chicken” to see who blinks
is the central issue and increased taxes and fees
are, once more, the stumbling block. There is
widespread agreement that something must be done
to address transportation congestion in heavily
populated Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach as
as well as corridors like Interstate 81 in the
problem is simply this: Does the legislature raise
taxes and fees and dedicate $1 billion a year for
transportation, or does it allocate $500 million a
year for transportation and finance it out of the
current and expected surpluses and new charges on
too bad that the heat of the times, in many ways
reflecting the scars of previous budget battles
under Governors Gilmore and Warner, did not allow
the House and Senate to come up with a joint
transportation plan. But there are two Republican
armies in Richmond right now, and they are
battling each other.
Republican army, headed by Speaker William J.
Howell, R-Fredericksburg, in the House, believes
that transportation funding should be approached
cautiously. The House does not want to see taxes
and fees raised so shortly after the debilitating
debate of two years ago. With the economy in
healthy shape and surpluses expected over the next
few years, the House advocates spending $1 billion
in this budget cycle financed by re-directing
General Fund sources to transportation, using a
portion of surplus dollars and adding new funds
gathered from those who drive unsafely.
other Republican army, headed by Senators Walter
Stosch, R-Henrico, and John Chichester,
R-Northumberland, believes that new sources of
funds must be found to dedicate for the long-term
handling of the transportation needs in our state.
This Republican army wants to see higher fees and
taxes dedicated to spending at least $1 billion a
year, year in and year out, on transportation.
Governor’s proposal takes from both of these
approaches while spending almost as much as the
Senate is suggesting.
plan takes a bite out of the transportation
problem faced here in Virginia. But a few
questions should be on the table as our elected
leaders work toward a budget.
can the state responsibly spend an additional $1
billion a year for transportation right now or is
it more reasonable to build up to this number over
a couple of years? Spending an extra $1 billion
takes capacity and management and a focus on where
to spend it.
priorities will this money be spent on in
each of the three transportation plans? Are these
priorities focused on relieving congestion,
improving the flow of goods, reducing pollution
and encouraging economic development in those
areas where the problems are the worst? Or will
these monies merely become “political pork,”
not focused on what is truly needed?
“new” monies be put into the Transportation
Trust Fund and not “stolen” for other
the reforms in VDOT talked about by some of our
leaders really going to take place over the next
then there are issues that should be thought
through as the General Assembly figures out what
will be accepted in a final transportation budget.
instance, will VDOT approve public-private
partnerships and outsource maintenance contracts
in a more timely manner?
transportation corridors might be contracted out
to the private sector for an influx of funds, and
how soon can that occur?
quickly can road maintenance be contracted out and
how much can be saved over the next fours years?
those savings be calculated into the monies
available for transportation improvements?
the state speed up pending projects where the
private sector has offered, in partnership with
the state, to build and own transportation
our state officials ask Virginia's congressional
delegation to focus its federal transportation
dollars on only the truly major projects so that
the high cost of federal regulations and the
subsequent delay involved in those regulations
impact the fewest possible projects?
state needs to see vast investments in its
transportation system. These investments should
come from the public and the private sectors
working together to fulfill an agreed-to
transportation vision. Private sector investments,
and savings from better management, should be part
of the funding formula. The voters expect our
leaders to do this in the most efficient and
economical manner possible.
March 20, 2006