Money from Northern Virginia taxpayers meant to address traffic congestion has been “hijacked” by Gov. Ralph Northam to keep the governor’s promises to Amazon in the HQ2 project, charges Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, in a Washington Post op-ed.
The state’s Smart Scale scoring system, which by law is supposed to emphasize congestion-mitigation strategies, has been biased in favor of projects geared to economic development and land use, with the result that almost all of it is ending up “within a stone’s throw of the Amazon HQ2 project in Arlington.” Outlying counties are the losers. Writes LaRock:
The Northam administration’s recommended project funding list for Northern Virginia spends 92 percent of the $200 million in recommended funding on transit/bike/pedestrian projects. Only a pittance, $16 million, would go to roads.
The Northam administration’s scoring shows 61 percent of these recommended projects’ benefit would be “Land Use,” another 9 percent “Accessibility and Economic Development,” 18 percent “Environmental” and only 7 percent “Congestion Mitigation.” Geographically, 66 percent of Northern Virginia funding would go to Arlington and Alexandria, with another 25 percent to a bus project on the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County.
LaRock’s op-ed follows a letter the delegate wrote last month to Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine requesting a thorough review of the Smart Scale scoring process. Deputy Secretary Nick Donohue responded that, yes, the scoring process did happen to favor non-road projects in Northern Virginia’s urban core in the last round, but that congestion-mitigation is duly taken into account as required by state law, and billions of dollars have been raised for major Northern Virginia highway projects in recent years.
Bacon’s bottom line: I haven’t seen LaRock’s issue get a lot of traction. Yet. The Washington Post has given ample attention to left-wing critics of the HQ2 project over the impact on gentrification and affordable housing, but LaRock’s op-ed is the first mention I’ve seen in the newspaper over the allocation of Northern Virginia transportation dollars.
But the issue could build. LaRock represents an outlying, auto-dependent suburban district. His constituents receive little direct benefit from investments in Arlington Metro and other projects that will improve transportation access for the HQ2 project and the Washington metro region’s urban core. Prince William County, another outlying auto-centric jurisdiction, gets zero dollars in recommended funding in this round. Furthermore, the issue has the potential to turn partisan. Washington’s urban core is solidly and reliably Democrat in political orientation. The outlying counties are more balanced between the parties in their voting patterns. Don’t be surprised if Republicans charge Northam with skewing the Smart Score results to favor his Democratic constituents.
Both LaRock and Donohue present arguments that on the surface seem plausible. I have not had time to delve deeply enough into the matter to determine who has the stronger case.There are currently no comments highlighted.