Brown Blasts LaHood over Fed Role in Rail-to-Dulles

Robert Clarke Brown, an outgoing board member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, unloaded with both barrels today in a letter addressed to U.S.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The recent fixation on MWAA’s governance issues, he charged, was a distraction from far more important issues — the minimal contributions to the Rail-to-Dulles project by the federal government and the commonwealth of Virginia.

“The criticisms of the Airport Authority have not been without merit. They have revealed real governance deficiencies. But the Authority is addressing those deficiencies,” wrote Brown, Treasurer of Case Western Reserve University who serves on the WMAA board as a presidential appointee. “I urge you now to turn your efforts on behalf of the Silver Line … [toward] securing federal and state funding resources to alleviate the terrible burden the current plan of finance places on the local community.”

Brown’s cannonade is in marked contrast to the reticence of other MWAA board members, who have largely refrained from responding publicly to their many critics, who include Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, many Northern Virginia politicians, citizen activists and the media.

The federal government will contribute only one-sixth of the roughly $6 billion cost of  extending METRO rail to Washington Dulles International Airport, a far smaller share than most other federally funded transportation projects. The state contribution will amount to only $350 million, or 6%. The state share compares to a 21% share of the Interstate 495 expressway project, 28% for Midtown-Downtown tunnel project in Hampton Roads, and 26% for the I-95 HOT lanes project, according to data attached to Brown’s letter.

As a consequence, the burden of financing the rail line will fall upon Fairfax County, Loudoun County and commuters on the Dulles Toll Road, whose tolls will be jacked up to pay off Rail-to-Dulles bonds. “If nothing changes in the Silver Line’s plan of finance, northern Virginia will soon be paying double-digit tolls on Dulles Toll Road,” he wrote.

The federal inspector general revealed extensive questionable board practices, such as filing lavish expenses accounts for travel and the issuance of no-bid contracts. (See “The Most Dysfunctional Board in the Country?“) But Brown was withering in his criticism of LaHood’s intrusion into MWAA’s affairs. Although the federal government can be described as a stakeholder, Brown argued that the airports authority is a bi-state compact between Virginia and Washington, D.C., an arrangement that gives the feds no power of regulation or supervision. He was particularly critical of the appointment of a federal Inspector General to probe charges of irregularities in MWAA governance.

Not only have your repeated encroachments on MWAA’s independence been of questionable lawfulness, they have also gone far beyond the traditional role of U.S. DOT in local project development and execution. The level of hands‐on secretarial involvement in the Silver Line project during your Administration is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented.  You have injected yourself into decisions about project scope, project management, Authority personnel, and local legislation to a degree seldom – if ever – seen in the execution of U.S. transportation projects.

There is no legal basis, Brown insisted, for LaHood’s appointment of an “accountability officer” for MWAA, which he described as a “coercive federal oversight authority.” He added: “The precedential mischief that DOT’s heavy-handed oversight has created should not be lightly regarded. Already, Fairfax County is advocating a role for itself in MWAA appointments.”

Brown also chastised Congressman Wolf, who championed legislation that was passed by Congress and enacted by Virginia and Washington, D.C., to reform MWAA’s governance structure. Among other measures, the amendments to the compact expanded the board from its “currently cumbersome” 13 members to 17. That change is more likely to hinder effective decision-making than help it, Brown said. The change in board composition, he added, will barely even increase Virginia’s representation, bumping up the state’s proportion of appointees from 38.5% to 41.2%.

LaHood should draw upon the “fruitful” relationship he has established with Gov. Bob McDonnell to persuade him to come up with additional funding for the Silver Line, Brown said.


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  1. Potomac Clubber Avatar
    Potomac Clubber

    I was under the impression that the Commonwealth was only paying $75 million towards the I-95 HOT lane project? Is $75 million 26% of the entire project?

    1. Brown’s document says the state is chipping in $297 million.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Good for Mr. Brown! I’ve noticed that the loudest loudmouths about the Silver Line are federal politicians and downstaters who can argue only about the paltry amount of money being contributes.

    The Cicada needs to go back down his post election hole and the Richmond political elite need to look for new spots to build more statues of Confederate soldiers.

  3. Let’s see, the Feds are broke and Richmond is broke but both have to fund Metro anyhow?

    This is funny. How many folks have been screaming that we are 16 trillion in debt and we have to cut entitlements and such?

    and yet, we have this project that needs billions or people will have to pay draconian tolls?


    I bet when Mitt Romney gets to be President, he’s going to consult with his VP Ryan and they’ll ask (in perfect unison) – ” is the Silver Line worth getting a loan from China to fund?” – and I’d wager what the answer is going to be and it’ll be something along the lines of “do bears do it in the woods?”


    1. DJRippert Avatar

      For being broke, the Feds (i.e. the Obama Administration) sure spends money like it’s going out of style. What’s his new tally for aid to Egypt? $450m? Yeah, they’re a great ally.

      Richmond is useless in all respects. My only request of our state government is that its members shut up. Remember the old adage, “Dimbulbs should be seen and not heard.”.

      In many ways, the high risk financing of the Silver Line primarily by Fairfax and Loudoun Counties is exactly what’s needed in America – localities willing to take risks in order to improve the locality. This risk may end up being a fiasco. However, the future is not for the timid. If federal spending is going to slow (and it is) then Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun all need to improve the quality of life enough to retain the country’s most educated workforce as the area takes on more private sector jobs to make up for lost public sector jobs.

      For the benefit of the political elite in Richmond, that’s called ”
      having some guts”.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      As for Romney / Paul and spending – I am fine with them cutting things like the Silver Line as long as they slash entitlement programs too. The greedy grays of the Boomer generation need to get their hands out of America’s till and leave some money and some infrastructure for our children.

  4. Here’s what’s really funny. For the past 4 years, we’ve heard from people like Ryan, Cantor, etc that we have a “spending” problem not a revenue problem although almost all of the deficit comes from spending approved during the Bush years and never removed from the budget.

    So the GOP signs on to the sequester as the “discipline” that will force the cuts that they have spent 4 years advocating for.

    so now what happens?

    The GOP is apoplectic of the “devastation” that will occur if we actually go through with the sequester.

    This really does show the GOP’s thinking on spending and cuts. They had no problem adding spending for two wars, tax cuts, and Medicre Part D – all of it, new spending with no paygo.

    then after they do this and we end up with a trillion dollars a year deficit, they say that Obama needs to cut the spending but he can’t cut DOD which is more than half of the new spending.

    So then what does the GOP say? They say we need to cut entitlements of course – which they themselves increased with Medicare Part D.

    so this is the problem. The GOP increased spending without paying for it, and now blame that increased spending on Obama and say he should cut it but he can’t cut 1/2 of the spending – the part that increased spending for DOD – so we need to balance the budget by cutting entitlements only.

    DJ calls this the Greedy Gray problem. I call this the dumber than moose crap problem.

    So we’ve polarized and divided the country by essentially lying about what the real problem is.

    We spent more money that we had revenues coming in – on wars, DOD and yet another entitlement program – but it’s really a “greedy gray” problem.

    And these people vote.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Both parties (and LarryG) miss the real problem. It’s not spending or revenue. It’s a lack of well-paying jobs for the 50% of the people who earn below the US mean income.

      Median household income is dropping:

      Neither raising taxes nor reducing spending will change that. For one thing, the Census doesn’t count most anti-poverty programs — food stamps, medical care, earned income tax credit — as income. So, cuts in those programs won’t reduce the median income of anybody although they will increase the misery of many.

      As of today, I don’t see the deficit as having anything to do with the drop in median household income. Therefore, raising taxes to lower the deficit will not raise median income, although (arguably) it might stave off an even bigger calamity to come.

      Who has a ten year plan to raise the median income to $60,000? In reality, nobody. However, if forced to choose – cutting entitlements represents a somewhat better approach than raising taxes and expanding government. Government has been growing like a weed under both of the last two administrations and median household income has declined 7% in real terms.

  5. well the question begs to be asked: how do you increase median income ?

    but when you say the deficit does not matter … you sound like Dick Cheney and you are 180 degrees from everyone from Bacon to Cantor to Ryan.

    Are you saying all these guys are demagoguing the issue?

    Boomergeddon is bogus?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      The deficit is a time bomb that is ticking but has not yet exploded. Avoiding the “Boom” is very worthwhile.

      The problem is that the median income has dropped 7% in real terms while the highest earners have gained a lot. And it’s hard to pin that on the deficit.

      So, we have both sides ignoring what I think is the key issue – the lack of growth (actually the decline) in median income.

      Since the deficit didn’t cause the drop in median income then cutting the deficit is unlikely to reverse the trend (although it may well avoid a future fiasco).

      Romney and Ryan want to cut spending to reduce the deficit (as well as closing tax loopholes).

      Obama and Biden want to raise taxes to reduce the deficit (as well as cut some programs, especially defense).

      I seriously question how either approach will turn around median incomes.

  6. Not everyone agrees with Mr. Brown. Passed under the presidency of Sally Horn. July 2012.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      This makes the MWAA sound pretty well organized:

      “(5) MWAA has conducted three studies of “revenue-maximizing tolls” (i.e., the toll that would generate the greatest toll receipts, after accounting for the reduction in the number of drivers who will not use the DTR because of increased tolls.) The study conducted in 2009 projected that the revenue-maximizing toll would be $12 for 2023, which will increase the number of drivers who do not use the DTR and increase traffic congestion on alternate routes used by commuters who are unwilling to pay the increased tolls;”

      I wonder if Flour / Transurban has “revenue maximizing toll” algorithms? My 6 year old son knows he can charge more for lemonade on a hot day so I am guessing that Flour / Transurban probably have revenue maximizing toll algorithms.

      The Flour / Transurban revenue maximizing toll algorithms apparently determine that the Beltway HOT lanes can maximize revenue at $1 / mile during peak load. And that will be charged immediately, not in 2023. I wonder how that compares to the $12 toll supposedly calculated by MWAA (to be charged in 2023)?

      People who don’t want to pay high tolls will use alternate surface streets? It’s hard to say why this is different for the Beltway. Paying $1 / mile will be too big a ticket for many people. They will continue to pile onto alternate routes to avoid congestion – just like they do today.

      Don’t get me wrong – high tolls are painful. But they are just as painful on the Beltway HOT lanes as they are on 267.

      High tolls are painful. But the fault for high tolls lies not with the MWAA nor with Flour / Transurban. The fault lies with the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond and their 26 year long ballet of incompetence over transportation issues.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        And … for the record … I am a daily commuter on the Dulles Toll Rd and very rarely use the Beltway during a workday.

  7. Drivers using the Express Lanes on the Beltway get something for their toll – a guaranteed speed of at least 45 mph. What do the DTR drivers get for their higher tolls?

  8. The toll on the DTR is there and remains there because the elected officials in NoVa – want it there. If there was widespread opposition among NoVa elected, a different outcome would occur.

    And yet, Richmond and Washington get blamed.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      What a simple minded comment. With no effective transportation policy from Richmond and a frozen gas tax in a Dillon’s rule state – there is little else to do.

      LarryG – the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond practices tyranny against the people of Virginia through Dillon’s rule.

      When tyrants take complete control the tyrants must be held responsible for the results of their tyranny.

      Localities in Virginia cannot even decide what height the grass should be in their cities and towns without consulting the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond –

  9. Darrell Avatar

    Dulles made my no fly list. I will not fly through there ever again. The reason is simple. Why is there a requirement for inbound overseas passengers to travel a maze that includes going through Customs twice? Why is there a requirement to gather all your baggage and hump it up and down stairs and through blind corridors for 40 minutes? Why do you then have to recheck your baggage, go through another security screen even though you never left the controlled area, then try to find information on your connecting flight, take a train to an ill marked gate system, and madly dash a half mile to get to your gate to finally board your plane that was conveniently delayed 30 minutes because all the luggage hadn’t been loaded? From yesterday forward, I’ll take Newark and even Houston before I step one foot in Dulles again. If this is how they operate an airport, I feel sorry for anyone who will travel the toll road.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Ha ha ha! I have more than 2 million air miles on United alone – the vast majority involving Dulles Airport.

      Look at the question of where the Rail to Dulles station will be at the airport. The first proposal, from MWAA, was that it be underground and convenient to the airport. Of course, that was trashed by people like Jim Bacon and the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond as being too expensive. Plenty of greedy grays, early retirees and 47 percenters from NoVa joined the chorus.

      “One of the driving forces behind the underground location was board member Mame Reiley, who said a more convenient, comfortable passenger experience was worth the additional cost and would stand the test of time.”.

      Wait until people hump their bags across the Metro only to have to march another couple of hundred yards to get to the terminal building.

      They’ll probably write comments about how bad Dulles Airport is to use and then blame the very airport authority which tried to show some common sense in building an underground station – like in London, Chicago, etc.

      1. You know, Don, your comment about the location of the Dulles METRO station would carry a lot more weight if it were accompanied by the statement, “and I’d be willing to pay my fair share for that extra convenience.” But I haven’t heard that from you, or anyone else defending Rail-to-Dulles. The METRO charges won’t even cover the Silver Line’s operating costs, much less the capital costs…. much less the cost of a more-expensive Dulles station and PLA agreements.

        I hear how important the Silver Line is — and I actually tend to agree. But I also hear how it’s everybody’s responsibility except for the people who will actually use the darn thing to pay for it!

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          I pay my fair share every time I file my state and federal income taxes. So do most of the people using Dulles Airport (for business, at least).

          Life would be fair if I paid the same flat fee on income that you and everybody else pays. Then, we could all pay for what we use that can be allocated by use. Until that happens, Virginia has a vested interest in keeping the small percentage of taxpayers who pay a majority of the state’s income taxes in-state.

          Funny how libertarians / Republicans / whatever can say that Maryland’s high income tax rate will force the wealthy elsewhere but can’t understand how Virginia’s God awful infrastructure does the exact same thing.

          What you seem incapable of understanding is exactly what Darrell is telling you – he will vote with his feet to avoid incompetently managed infrastructure. He will vote with his feet by flying out of other airports in other states. Now, multiply that sentiment by surplus tax payers leaving the state, creative people refusing to move here and you have … the strategic plan from the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

  10. Another thing no one mentions. The late state senator Omer Hirst, who lead the charge to mobilize Fairfax County to build the DTR through tolls, promised the public that, once the bonds were paid, the tolls would go away. Little did he know later politicians would spit on his promise to channel money from the general public to Bechtel and the Tysons landowners.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      TMT – The man with no plan.

      You acknowledge the gridlock and general transportation chaos in Tyson’s. You complain about every decision made by every elected official. Yet, your only alternative is “go somewhere else”.

      TM-NIMBY might be a better handle.

      1. The studies show Dulles Rail will not reduce traffic congestion. DJR knows in his heart that all the engineers are wrong. Some 26-year-old wearing a black tee shirt, cargo shorts and backwards baseball cap said “Gee rail is wonderful.” That overrides Fairfax County’s and VDOT’s engineers’ studies. Of course, we don’t even know how many trains per hour will serve the Silver Line. But it doesn’t matter, because some lobbyist for Bechtel said rail is wonderful. With a lobbyist and a 26-year-old agreeing, the rest of us must be wrong.

        As far as the underground station at Dulles is concerned, former Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin said Fairfax County was willing to support MWAA if MWAA paid for the difference between the above-ground station and the underground one. MWAA turned it down because it wanted the DTR users to pay.

        Ask any person in Fairfax County who knows what’s going on. They will tell you Dulles Rail has nothing to do with transportation. It was built to allow mega-density in Tysons and Reston. It is a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to Bechtel and to a few landowners.

        Talking to MWAA’s deputy CFO at MWAA’s recent open house at Spring Hill School, I asked about surcharging Silver Line passengers who board or disembark at the Airport Station. MWAA doesn’t like that. Let’s not have the beneficiaries pay for what they get.

        What’s wrong with funding projects that actually reduce traffic congestion and improve safety. Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R) and Senator Dave Marsden (D) sponsored legislation to require VDOT to rank transportation projects in NoVA by their return on investment based on reductions in traffic congestion and improvements in safety to guide funding decisions. Guess which county’s board of supervisors opposed this? Fairfax County. Show me the numbers.

        1. re: ” What’s wrong with funding projects that actually reduce traffic congestion and improve safety”

          I think TMT asks some reasonable questions including the one I copied above.

          But my impression of NoVa – which I fully admit may be ignorant – is that relieving congestion is not really possible.

          so I ask. is it really possible to reduce congestion in NoVa and if so what kind of project would have the best chance of doing that?

          So.. maybe it’s true that Dulles Rail won’t reduce congestion but does that imply that there are road projects that will do so?

          My impression of METRO is that it provides a reliable trip – one that you can plan on the time needed whereas with roads, it’s more of a crap shoot.

        2. DJRippert Avatar

          Where’s the beef? Where’s the plan?

          Your best shot at a plan is to change the process for transportation projects?

          Arlington works. Even NoVa perma – critic Jim Bacon has recently said that Arlington might have the right balance between heavy urban and suburban density.

          The Wilson Blvd corridor was a blighted disaster before Metro. Metro caused the Arlington revitalization. It wasn’t the grid streets as you theorize. Those streets were in a grid pattern when the Wilson corridor was a blighted mess. And I was living here when every gas station had signs that read, “Pay for Metro now, ride Metro when?”. The “head in the sand crowd” was wrong then and they are wrong now.

          I believe that the new Metro lines will help create higher density mixed use communities in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The only reason those communities will be attractive is because the Metro will reduce traffic congestion to and from those communities. This isn’t a question about the present and present traffic patterns – it is a question of the future.

          Of course, the future doesn’t concern people who have no plan for the future.

          1. “I believe that the new Metro lines will help create higher density mixed use communities in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The only reason those communities will be attractive is because the Metro will reduce traffic congestion to and from those communities. This isn’t a question about the present and present traffic patterns – it is a question of the future.”

            Let me address each sentence. The first sentence is correct. The Silver Line will most certainly permit higher density, mixed use communities in Fairfax & Loudoun Counties. Fairfax County has a Transit Oriented Development policy, and I would expect Loudoun to have one too. TOD permits higher densities for mixed use projects at rail stations.

            Reduction of traffic congestion at these same mixed use developments. That statement is absolutely false for Fairfax County and most likely so for Loudoun. Traffic studies submitted to VDOT for Tysons showed an increase in SOV traffic after the Silver Line opens and as high-quality, mixed use structures are built and leased. Moreover, the traffic studies are being redone by FC DOT because the final plan approved by Fairfax in June 2010 grants about 30% more density than was studied by FC DOT in 2009. (It must be noted, however, that the currently approved density for Tysons is much, much less than that proposed by the Task Force.)

            The Fairfax traffic studies show that, with rail, expanded bus transit, mixed use development, massive road improvements, and extremely tough TDM requirements, once Tysons reaches 84 M sq ft, the road system reaches total failure, such that no growth can occur unless each and every new car trip is canceled by a new transit or bike/walking trip. Those are the facts. Traffic congestion in and around Tysons gets worse.

            Will people chose to live and work in Tysons or live in Tysons or work in Tysons? Yes. Many people clearly like urban living and companies will continue to operate there. People will accept jobs based in Tysons. Tysons will be very expensive, but it will be chosen by many people. It will continue to be a desirable location and will continue to generate substantial economic activity. But that does not mean it will not see much worse traffic congestion. It will.

  11. Here’s where I get confused. If it is okay to use road tolls to pay for METRO why is it not okay to use road tolls to pay for inter-city rail?

    In other words, why is it okay for one situation but not for another?

    Would intercity rail HELP NoVa with traffic congestion emanating from the exurbs – aka VRE times 5 or 10?

    Is inter-city rail – defacto economic development for NoVa, i.e. they get the business and the exurbs get the residential?

    1. Larry, Don’s logic is even more confusing than you describe. The question should be, if it’s OK to use road tolls to pay for METRO, why isn’t it OK to use road tolls to pay for roads?

      1. DJRippert Avatar


        The logical extension of your theory would be to eliminate the state income tax in Virginia since earning income does not correspond to 5.75% of that income in costs to the state. Certainly. other successful and fiscally conservative states have gone this route. Do you support the elimination of personal income tax in Virginia? Of course not. Your philosophy of “user pays” only counts when you are not the user.

        As far as tolls paying for roads – one more time – I think that’s a great idea, as long as all drivers pay tolls to pay for ALL roads. Again, your pseudo-user pays philosophy allows for some users to pay while others do not. That’s not user pays. That just economic NIMBYism.

        A vehicle miles driven toll would work well. However, the pseudo-user pays crowd jumps to claim that any such automated toll management would be an invasion of privacy. Thieves will always find excuses to take other people’s money.

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        Hey, LarryG – You ready to become one of those “users who pay”? I love the idea of charging you every time you start your car.

        Eliminate the gas tax. Eliminate all tolls. VMT! No discounts for greedy grays. No discounts for early retirees.

        This would be 100% fine by me.

        1. re: taxes and tolls – I pay both and prefer tolls over taxes.

          so what’s your problem here?

          ” I have repeatedly written that I think higher taxes for better infrastructure is a good idea.”

          that would be Obama’s position. Romney/Ryan are opposed to that, right?

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      When did I ever say it wasn’t OK? I question the ridership of a Tidewater – Richmond – Washington line.

      Taxpayer funds subsidize Amtrak overall I believe. When have I ever complained about that.

      In fact, I have repeatedly written that I think higher taxes for better infrastructure is a good idea.

  12. Darrell Avatar

    It wouldn’t even have to be underground. It could be something like the rail service in Frankfurt. As far as Dulles goes, I have a low threshold for stupid crap. That’s why my other no fly airport is Portland, Ore. Someone somewhere decided to make it a hub. No food, no toilets, no nothing, for thousands of people daily trying to make connections to anywhere but there.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I guess you fly United. You primarily use the C & D terminals. The renovated B terminal is pretty nice.

      The point you are missing is that both Reagan and Dulles have been improved in the last 15 years. Reagan / National has been complete refurbished and is a very nice airport. Dulles has progressed with a Terminal B and trains replacing some of the people movers.

      Contrast the progress the MWAA has made with the airports to the fiasco that VDOT and the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond has created with road transportation.

      As a driver and frequent flyer, let me state my opinion clearly:

      MWAA is massively more competent and massively more effective than VDOT and the corrupt CTB and even more corrupt Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

  13. re: we all pay taxes for Metro and Dulles Rail.

    yep.. but who gets to use it ?

    why shouldn’t my taxes go for projects that I can use and your taxes go to projects you use?

    why does my tax have to pay for your infrastructure?

    If transportation infrastructure is equal to economic development, then why not use taxes to economically develop all of Virginia – especially those parts you resent paying for schools for?

  14. re: paying for infrastructure, taxes, tolls, VMT, etc, et al.

    As a retiree, my use of the road system is way less than when I worked full time, but even then, I was a committed car-pooler – 34 years worth and I did it simply because it was cheaper for me but it was also cheaper for the infrastructure because one car with 4 people is less destructive and less congestive than 4 cars with 4 people.

    I have a permanent EZ-pass that I use all the time and now it has been updated to an dual-mode HOV model so I can use it on HOT Lanes – and I plan to do what I did for 34 years – carpool so I get a lower rate but perfectly willing to pay the full toll for solo travel when I cannot carpool. In other words, I am more than willing to pay my fair share of the roads – but I do expect others to do so also.

    Now, I do not begrudge others who whether by choice or otherwise want to drive solo – whether 5 miles daily to their job or 50 miles to their job but surely people realize that if they drive more frequently or drive long distances, that the costs to them AND the cost to the infrastructure go up – and those costs belong to them.

    Infrastructure to support more frequent and longer distance commuting costs more money than lighter duty roads.

    If you want to buy down congestion – you should not expect others to pay those costs – they are yours.

    The plan for Virginia should be:

    1. localities take responsibility for local roads – as is done in 46 other states.

    2. regions take responsibility for regional roads – including those used for commuting.

    3. the state takes responsibility for roads of statewide significance.

    Existing roads maintenance costs are paid for with gas taxes.
    New roads will be toll roads – forever – so that not only their initial construction costs are covered but also their continuing operational and maintenance costs.

    We need to start recognizing that roads are never paid for. They need a permanent source of funding to be maintained and operated.

    Regional roads should be paid for by regional funding – to be decided by a direct-elected transportation board to go hand-in-hand with regional taxation, regional accountability – no more blaming Richmond for the sins of the localities.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “Existing roads maintenance costs are paid for with gas taxes.
      New roads will be toll roads – forever – so that not only their initial construction costs are covered but also their continuing operational and maintenance costs.”.

      Absolutely not!

      All road costs to be borne by tolls.

      All maintenance, all new road construction, everything.

      No gas tax. No extra sales tax. No tolls other than the overall GPS based mileage toll.

      If a congested road needs new construction to widen it then the total cost allocated through tolls for driving on that road will be high. The question of rate per mile, of course, can only be determined when the total number of miles driven on a road (or section of road) is known. High costs and lots of vehicle miles? Reasonable tolls.

      As for roads of statewide significance, a portion of the vehicle miles driven toll should be given to the state. A small portion, capped by the Virginia Constitution.

      Elected regional authority? Good idea. My only question is why stop at roads. Nothing in Virginia (outside of the Richmond MSA) is enhanced by the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. The less power the clowns have, the better we will all live.

      1. I do not think primary roads – arterials – will ever be tolled but who knows but a transponder and open road tolling infrastructure is less intrusive and probably less expense administratively than VMT.

        unless of course, you’d support something as a ruse because you too would believe that it will never happen.

        there has to be an acceptance of what is possible and what is not.

        Now FHWA is currently running a pilot program that lets a small number of states (Virginia is one) actually toll existing roads to pay for improvements and rehabilitation (technically “maintenance”).

        in theory, if this idea goes forward ( and by the way, this IS the preferred GOP approach to paying for roads), and we have the ability to charge via transponder OR license plate reading – then we will likely see tolls accessed for particular roads AND boundaries … cordon tolls – where if you go into a designated urban area – you pay a toll – which will vary according to time of day or congestion levels.

        re; elected regional authorities with taxing power.

        We have a bunch of non-direct-elected regional authorities right now that charge fees – like water authorities, jails, libraries, etc so it’s not that big a step to do regional transportation. for instance, we have PRTC/NVTA for VRE and they assess 2.1% fuel taxes and then allocate them to pay for VRE and who elects them?

        I’m surprised when the 3202 transportation authorities got rule unconstitutional that other challenges for other authorities like VRE or the Fairfax Water Authority did not follow.

  15. DJRippert Avatar

    TMT writes, “Those are the facts.”.

    TMT has provided no facts. He has only quoted hypothetical studies.

    I heard the same complaints when the original Metro was being funded back in the 1970s.

    The “study quoters” were wrong then and they are wrong now.

    Beyond that, the “study quoters” have no alternate plan.

    “Traffic studies submitted to VDOT for Tysons showed an increase in SOV traffic after the Silver Line opens and as high-quality, mixed use structures are built and leased. “.

    So, the Silver Line will reduce traffic (obviously) but not by enough to make up for the added density. At least, that’s the theory from the professional theorists.

    And the alternative …. ? Bulldoze Tyson’s? Let it fade into the next Detroit?

    In other words, do nothing?

    That’s certainly what I would expect from the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond – do nothing.

    Thank God the Fairfax County and Loudoun County Boards of Supervisors are made of sterner stuff than that.

    We Do Nothing. That really ought to be Virginia’s state motto.

  16. DJRippert Avatar

    For consideration on the Virginia state flag (in replacement of sic semper tyrannus) …

    Nos Nihil Facere.

    “We Do Nothing.”.

    Possible motto for Richmond political elite …

    “Et Ebullire Exspectamus.”.

    “We Wait for it to Bubble Up.”

  17. I do not think Va does “nothing” much more different than other states when it comes to transportation.

    I’ve yet to see a single study that ranks Va at the bottom on transportation… as compared to other states.

    this is all in DJ fervent mind.

    TMT also said that studies showed that rail would not reduce auto congestion. and I asked if there were any road studies that showed that new roads would reduce congestion.

    I do not think there are. I think congestion is a way of life in NoVa and no amount of money will reduce it in any significant way, and especially so at rush hour.

    What Metro does is get you from point a to point b in a time certain manner no matter what mayhem is occurring on the regional road network. time is money.

  18. DJR – You discount traffic studies done by government engineers. Yet you want more roads to be built. On what basis should more roads be built if not based on traffic studies? Lobbying by Bob Chase and the NVTA? Editorials by the WaPo rum-dumbs? Show me the facts demonstrating Project A provides traffic relief.

    Do you support wasting tax dollars? Hiking the gas tax so that even more tax dollars can be wasted?

    Instead of just doing something, how about doing something right? LeMunyon and Marsden have proposed legislation to try to do that. Rank proposed projects based on studies and analysis to show which ones provide the most congestion relief. Yet Fairfax County fought this. Doesn’t that say something?

    NoVA has grown to the point where it is unlikely that there are many major transportation projects that can provide any significant traffic relief. At some point, VDOT needs to move to network management techniques, including pricing that pushes demand outside periods of network congestion. With Express Lanes, it is starting to do this.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “Rank proposed projects based on studies and analysis to show which ones provide the most congestion relief. “.

      I think that’s a great idea. However, the future of NoVa is much broader than ranking projects by congestion relief. Where is the overall vision of what NoVa should be in the future?

      “NoVA has grown to the point where it is unlikely that there are many major transportation projects that can provide any significant traffic relief.”.

      No doubt the same thing was said about Manhattan around 1900. Not everybody thought the subway was a good idea. Many felt Manhattan had reached its population limit.

      TMT – Reach beyond traffic congestion for a moment. What is you overall vision of NoVa over the next 50 years?

      You put the cart before the horse. First, regional vision. Then, infrastructure options.

      What is your vision?

      1. Vision for NoVA, and infrastructure. I’ll start with what Fairfax County has envisioned. There will be several urban centers, Tysons, Baileys, Springfield, maybe a couple more; and most other neighborhoods will have their essential character (suburban or semi-rural) protected. At least 10% of all land mass will be parks or other open space, with extreme pressure to keep more land open and free from development. Total county population will rise to around 1.3 to 1.5 million from today’s 1.1 million. Developers will continue to argue Fairfax County needs to grow to 2.5 million, but that won’t happen because of political, economic and environmental opposition. Many workers will continue to live outside the county and commute, but as noted below, teleworking levels will be much higher, reducing some of the congestion.

        The urban areas will have some genuine attraction, but will be expensive and will face issues with noise, dirt and increased crime. They will be successful, but much less than the Utopian world than people believe in today.

        The road network will largely be what it is today. We will see additional Express Lanes, which will facilitate express bus service and help push demand to less crowded periods. Any urban area will have mandatory paid parking, with a parking tax component. There will be many minor spot improvements to roads. Instead of just large buses, there will be many jitney buses, serving suburban neighborhoods, with most privately owned. Teleworking levels will be much higher, and network security much stronger. Increased teleworking will be essential to NoVA’s continued vitality.

        A third Potomac River crossing for rail will exist or be under construction. There will be no new bridge to Maryland between the American Legion and Route 15. The Orange Line will be extended west or will be after the new crossing opens. There may be a new American Legion Bridge with a rail connection capacity. I don’t know whether a new rail line between Maryland and Virginia will be open in 50 years. Extending rail would require rebuilding the Beltway or a massive condemnation of neighborhoods, neither of which is economically possible. It will still be a nightmare to commute between states.

        Traffic will continue to be horrible.

        1. TMT had a pretty good run at vision IMHO and I would add – that Fairfax and NoVa need to develop a vision of how they will grow and develop without relying on Federal or State funding to do so or at the least recognize, quantify to what extent they expect the Feds and the State to pay for the infrastructure that is needed.

          Even better, define the infrastructure needed and do so by aligning it to the development desired.

  19. I agree with TMT. You might get some local improvements at locations with some bottlenecks but you’re not going to get significant network level improvement without tearing down a lot of existing real estate.

    Basically, Fairfax (and to be fair, most localities) sought funding to build roads for the same reason they are building the Silver Line – for development – not for transportation utility.

    Note as TMT has, what Fairfax goal is – development … and lip service for the mitigation of the transportation impacts.

    The blame Richmond crowd want Fairfax to do it’s thing and the state to take care of the transportation issues.


  20. and blaming NoVa traffic congestion on “greedy grays”… LORD!

    “Greedy Grays”, for the most part, are smart enough to stay off the roads at rush hour. Their impact on the road system is minimal compared to others and yet they still pay significant taxes, real estate, personal property, sales, income, AND the 2.1% VRE tax to boot!

  21. DJRippert Avatar

    “and blaming NoVa traffic congestion on “greedy grays”… LORD!”.

    The blowback on greedy grays is gaining momentum and is destined to prevail.

    The evidence of its gaining momentum?

    The reason why it will prevail?

    Greedy grays are dying out. Their reign of terror is ending. The oldest Boomers (the true greedy grays) turned 65 in 2011 (1946 + 65 = 2011).

    Soon, the politicians will realize that there are more votes to be had among the echo Boomers (who have been screwed by the Greedy Grays) than from the Greedy Grays. The Echo Boomers will get older and vote more consistently and the Greedy Gray Boomers will simple die.

    America will be on the right track once the politicians abandon the Greedy Grays for the future.

    And that is inevitable.

    And yes, the Boomers of 1986 who are the Greedy Grays of today demanded that the gas tax stay frozen in cents per gallon for the last 26 years. They are very, very much to blame for the congestion fiasco. They stuffed the ill gotten gains of screwing their children into their pockets as they found one reason after another to avoid building the infrastructure needed for the future.

    I assume there is an especially hot spot in hell for those who are so self-centered that they would screw future generations so that the can buy more needless crap for themselves. For example, those who think that freezing the gas tax in cents per gallon for 26 years is Ok so they can avoid “paying it forward” with regard to infrastructure. For example, those who take more out of social security today than the next generation will be able to get despite the fact that the next generation paid more in.

    Eternity is a long time and that particular spot in hell is probably pretty hot.

  22. “Reason” is your source for this? You realize that Reason is also the force behind congestion tolling, right?

    You will not find me defending Medicare and I have several times advocated that retirees pay more for it and benefits should be trimmed but your “blame” everyone from Richmond to the Greedy Grays is typical of the right wing these days who blame but fail to come up with real solutions. Cutting Medicare will not fix the health care problem that affects everyone but that matters little to the “blame” crowd.

    The “blame” crowd that DJ has become a card-carrying member of also blames Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, teachers, gays, unions, women, etc .

    Yet these same folks are apoplectic over what it will take to actually balance the budget because cutting Medicare won’t come close to doing it. No matter – with the “blame” crowd the idea is to punish first then figure out what to do next as opposed to taking the necessary steps to fix the deficit which would include cuts to DOD.

    The “blame” crowd manages to not blame DOD for the massive loading of debt on the “kids” but it is every bit involved as Medicare is.

    The long and short of it is that the “blame” crowd is out of ideas, has no real vision of the future – other than to blame others.

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