LaRock: Northam “Hijacked” Road Funds for Amazon

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.

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9 responses to “LaRock: Northam “Hijacked” Road Funds for Amazon

  1. In fairness, the Rt 1 corridor in Fairfax County is a congested fiasco which needs attention. The Wilson Bridge remodeling helped straighten out the northernmost end of the corridor but the run south to Ft Belvoir is still a mess. Given that there is considerable room for dense, multi-use development along that corridor additional funding is justified. However, that funding should come with strings attached. Fairfax County should pledge zoning changes that will encourage higher density mixed use development along with a plan to ensure that affordable housing is part of that redevelopment.

    There are schools serving the Rt 1 corridor where 85% of the students receive free or subsidized lunch (example: Bucknell Elementary). Anything that can help the economically disadvantaged people living along that corridor benefit from the Amazon deal is worthwhile.

  2. I’m starting to think that the NoVa GOP folks are either just abysmal political hacks or they never really learned how to read – and think critically.

    What Smart Scale DOES … IS prioritize moving PEOPLE – not CARS and Congestion Mitigation does NOT mean ONLY roads! It specifically scores any project based on how effective it is at moving people.

    Congestion Relief is NOT just roads!

    Beyond that Congestion Mitigation is but one criteria that goes into a score – and again ANY project road or not!

    Apparently some folks have not bothered – both the political folks and blog writers to take the time to delve into how Smart Scale really works:

    HOW TO READ A SCORECARD

    http://smartscale.org/documents/how_to_read_a_scorecard_3.pdf

    the NoVa GOP is trying to use traffic congestion as a way to win NoVa seats so they are demagoguing it without really offering any real alternatives themselves other than “build more roads”. There is no list of specific projects that they support much less how they would pay for them… other than to have Smart Scale go away and return to politics as the way to do roads and ….. just build more roads to satisfy the the “me me me” SOV numbnuts.

    Building more roads in NoVa is a fool’s errand even if you could find more available right-of-way without taking homes and businesses – doing so only would encourage even more driving but don’t let that stop the unprincipled political types from trying to use it their advantage and re-politicize VDOT.

    People who want to drive solo – basically most all of us – have to start accepting the reality that there are way more of us than there are roads and building more of them is not only beyond the fiscal means of the state but it only encourages more solo driving.

    You cannot prioritize density – and roads – more density means more mass transit…

    • You’re off the centerline again Larry. Northern Virginia’s GOP doesn’t need to offer solutions … yet. What they should demand is a fair, complete and accurate accounting of transportation funding and spending in Virginia going back at least 30 years. How much was raised in all the myriad taxes and tolls in Northern Virginia that go to transportation vs how much was spent on transportation in Northern Virginia? That is question #1.

      I’ll put Dave LaRock tentatively onto my “keeper” list for this Fall. At least he’s asking the a few of the right questions. I’ll give Surovell a pass for now since he’s getting money for Rt 1 and now wouldn’t be the time to complain. But all the others? They’re on the “throw the bums out” list unless they start demanding a full accounting of “tax vs spend” in Northern Virginia. And that’s “tax vs spend” on everything – including transportation.

      A fair accounting from the Richmond Kleptocracy is the first step.

      • “… a fair, complete and accurate accounting of transportation funding and spending in Virginia going back at least 30 years.”

        Good idea. I wonder how we get such a thing. And what would be included? Tax dollars by region paid into the system? Construction and maintenance dollars by region paid out?

        • You’re on the right track. Thirty years ago was 1989. The numbers must still be available. You’d have to make some allocations and estimates but that’s life. If NoVa has been getting a fair share then the debate up here should turn from complaining about the state’s allocation methods to finding ways to raise more money locally / regionally. If we haven’t been getting our fair share it’s time to make things right.

          Where are NoVa’s politicians demanding this analysis? Nowhere to be found. I suspect that they know it has been unfair and they won’t be able to explain how they let that happen over all the years they have been in office.

  3. ” … and billions of dollars have been raised for major Northern Virginia highway projects in recent years.”

    Typically half assed comment from the Richmond Politburo.

    No quantification … “billons”, “recent years”, even “Northern Virginia”. Worse yet, not commentary on how many “billons” have been taken out of “Northern Virginia” for highways in “recent years”.

    I guess I don’t expect much from the Northam Administration. Blessedly, their reign of buffoonery will end in 2021. However, I do expect more from Northern Virginia’s elected representatives in the General Assembly. Dave LaRock is on the right track but we have dozens more General Assembly members. Where are they in demanding an accurate and honest accounting from Richmond Kleptocracy? Where is Barbra Favola asking about the money for the mess in McLean? Where is Janet Howell, Kathleen Murphy, David Bulova, Chap Petersen, Mark Keam, John Bell, Jennifer Boysko, etc, etc.

    TMT – Does it seem like Favola is on your side here? Bike lanes for her liberal friends in Arlington and pounded sand for her more conservative constituents in McLean. You’re fooling yourself with that woman.

    • And a person without a car is going to provide better results for McLean? I attended a meeting on extending the Express Lanes with VDOT and Transurban last night. They are proceeding with the traffic studies and environmental assessment.

  4. Sounds like Danica Roem has the right idea: deliver on constituent services and particularly on cleaning up Rt 28 through Manassas and people simply don’t care about your personal life. As for those bike lanes, all I can say is, the Potomac Yards Metro needed both entrances all along and VDOT suddenly finding the money to fix all the cost cutting at Potomac Yards should never have had to come at the expense of NOVA road improvements.

    • Yep, sticking with my theme of out with the old and in with the new. Young woman, new to politics, not part of the insular old guard. Hopefully she doesn’t grow roots as a delegate.

      I could care less about her personal life.

      I also found it odd that the highway “scorecard” suddenly turned up all priorities near Amazon HQ2 once the deal went down. As my Dad used to say, “If you’re ever in a card game and you can’t figure out who the pigeon is … you’re the pigeon.” In this card game, northeaster Fairfax County and eastern Loudoun County were the pigeons.

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