Devolve Federal Transportation Spending to the States

Transportation bill to nowhere

Worth reading: an op-ed penned by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, in the Wall Street Journal today. He explains how Senate Democrats and House Republicans have “surrendered to the status quo” of unsustainable fiscal policy by cranking up transportation spending and bailing out the Highway Trust Fund with borrowed money.

DeMint makes a modest proposition: “We should devolve the federal highway program from Washington to the states. We can dramatically cut the federal gas tax to a few pennies, which would be enough to fund the limited number of highway programs that serve a clear national purpose.”

States then could adjust their state gas taxes, avoid congressional earmarks, devise their own transportation construction plans without petitioning the federal highway bureaucracy, and sidestep the Davis-Bacon Act requirement to pay labor-union wages on federally funded projects.

Why aren’t Virginia’s congressmen making a similar case?


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


8 responses to “Devolve Federal Transportation Spending to the States”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    “Why aren’t Virginia’s congressmen making a similar case?”.

    Because Jim DeMint’s home state – South Carolina – has the most complete home rule structure in the nation. Virginia has one of the least complete home rule structures.

    In South Carolina, devolving transportation from the federal government to the state would, in likelihood, mean that the funding was devolved to localities. In Virginia, devolving that funding would just be another exercise in Richmond’s pork barrel politics.

    Remember, Virginia’s General Assembly is the organization that has created a transportation crisis by freeing the state’s gas tax in cents per gallon for the last 25 years.

    Do you really want to give that group more control over transportation? It would be like giving a teenager a loaded automatic weapon and a six pack of beer.

    Death to Dillon.

  2. Oh I thought Jim was asking why not DEVOLVE to the localities themselves?


    so if Jim wants to devolve from the Feds to the State but not from the State to the localities… he oughta explain, eh?

    of course.. there would be no more transit money…. last thing I heard.. the GOP has separated out the 2.8 cents for transit and suggested that it come from somewhere other than the Fed Gas Tax.

  3. DJRippert Avatar


    In my mind there is no doubt that the Republicans in Virginia are more to blame for the transportation fiasco than the Democrats. Bob McDonnell has done a good job of making progress despite his own party. However, his term will end in 20 months (perhaps sooner if he is the VP candidate). After that, we’ll be back to the mindless quackery of Virginia’s old school Republicans.

  4. Once Fairfax Count decides how much the Tysons landowners must pay for transportation infrastructure, this ratio ($/FAR) should be extended across the entire state. If Til Hazel had to pay for his roads, he probably wouldn’t want them.
    The big problem remains, we don’t build roads or transit for the benefit of the public. If we did, you would see two things. A lot less desire for road-building by land speculators. And more acceptance of higher taxes by the general public.
    Tysons has exploded the myth that real estate development is done to benefit the public. It’s a business just like anything thing else.

  5. well I keep trying to remind folks that 46 other states make the localities responsible for local roads while the State retains responsibility of the Interstates and designated statewide “primary” roads.

    And in those states – the localities cannot easily “use” the state level roads for development venues.

    What would Fairfax have done if it and the developers ended up solely responsible for the transportation costs of the Tysons Proposal?

    when we say that transportation is a “core” responsibility of the state – the proper perspective should be the mindset of the 46 states who restrict the “core” responsibility to roads of statewide significance – not local roads for local development.

  6. here’s a real world example of how the localities deal with land-use and transportation.

    Stafford county has, in it’s exquisite wisdom decided to designate a UDA right smack in the middle of US 1 – which is a NHS highway corridor.

    VDOT has had long-standing plans to widen US 1 from 4 to 6 lanes.

    Stafford want their UDA to be “walkable” and wants it reduced to 2 lanes and/or traffic calming put there.

    think about this and think about how much thought many localities put into their decisions as to WHERE to put development.

    they think US 1 belongs to them…and not Va.

    and not only are they willing to co-opt it for local development but they are willing to destroy it’s fundamental transportation utility in the process.

  7. Not only does US 1 belong to VDOT, it is most certainly part of the National Highway System, as Larry suggests. The Tysons Task Force wanted to make Routes 7 and 123 narrow Blvds through Tysons. What a foolish idea. They must meet state and federal standards. Only Stewart Schwartz and company are making this argument today. Stafford is just as foolish.

  8. I think every major urban area in Va has NHS or Va primary roads running through the center so it’s a long-standing … typical…normal… situation.

    NoVa has dozens of primary roads that have been forever altered by local uses.

    the trouble is – that this has costs to it.

    anytime you take a road that was designed initially as a transportation corridor to connect places and move people and goods and convert it to a local venue, you have to replace what you lost which means bypasses and more new roads to replace the ones “lost” to development.

    Finally, VDOT is showing some backbone on stricter Access Management for roads that are still salvageable.

    Rt 29 in Cville is a good example of what happens when a state level road is co-opted for local purposes.

    Lynchburg complains that Cville is “blocking” fixing Rt 29 but Lynchburg did the same thing that Cville did to Route 29… and they have built TWO bypasses – the second one a very expensive limited access road courtesy of Va taxpayers but the new bypass still has curb cuts and median cross-overs.

Leave a Reply