“Address the Transportation Crisis” — Code Words for Mo’ Money

by James A. Bacon

In a foreshadowing of a possible grand urban alliance, Hampton Roads mayors have reached out to counterparts in Northern Virginia and the Richmond region to unite in pursuit of a comprehensive transportation funding solution.

“We all recognize the crisis Virginia faces as it relates to transportation, therefore, we strongly believe it is time for the Golden Crescent Region of Virginia to organize ourselves,” states a letter sent this week by the Hampton Roads Mayors and Chairs Caucus.

The Virginian-Pilot described the initiative as the “brainchild” of Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. The letter had support from leaders across Hampton Roads, the newspaper reports. Among south Hampton Roads municipalities, only Chesapeake declined to sign.

The letter comes as the General Assembly prepares to return to the Capitol next week to vote on a state budget after Senate and House conferees nixed $300 million to pay down future toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road and an unspecified amount of additional toll-mitigation funds for the Midtown/Downtown Tunnel project.

A number of years ago, the letter notes, there was an attempt to get the Golden Crescent to coalesce around transportation and education issues. It is time to revive that initiative. “Considering the transportation crisis we now face, we strongly feel it is time again for us to join together, perhaps with the assistance of the business community. We believe our regions working together can effectively influence the General Assembly to address the transportation crisis.” The letter also noted the need to address tax reform and the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.

The letter proposed convening a summit of the mayors and boards of supervisor chairs from Golden Crescent localities soon after the reconvened General Assembly session. “The purpose of this gathering would be to coalesce around some general ideas relating to transportation funding, developing a strategy, and discuss outreach to the business community. More specifically, we would agree to harness our respective political influence and initiate a campaign to influence our General Assembly to address our significant transportation challenges.”

The letter provides no specific remedies. But it’s not difficult to imagine what the signatories have in mind. They’re not talking about changing they way they do business. They want mo’ money. Someone else’s money.

That’s easier said than done. Here are some of the hard realities that Governor Bob McDonnell and state state confront while trying to find more money for transportation.

  • Gas tax. While elites favor an increase in the motor fuels tax, the general public does not. The reasons for the gulf in sentiment are twofold: (a) Higher-income households can absorb higher prices at the pump more easily than lower/middle households can, and (b) higher-income households place a higher premium on time spent stalled in traffic congestion than do lower/middle income families. For elected Republican officials, whose middle-class suburban and rural constituents drive more than average, the gas tax is politically toxic.
  • Borrowing. The McDonnell administration has already maxed out the state’s borrowing limits for transportation projects without endangering Virginia’s AAA bond rating. (See “Rail-to-Dulles and the Debt Dilemma“). Borrowing more is not an option.
  • General Fund. The General Assembly has just nixed two proposals to divert monies from the General Fund to the Transportation Trust Fund. Democrats, who led the charge for higher gas taxes, also led the charge to defeat proposals that would siphon off monies otherwise reserved for schools, colleges, health care, prisons and other non-transportation priorities.
  • Tolls. The McDonnell administration is aggressively pursuing public-private partnerships that would finance mega-projects by means of tolls. But the Hampton Roads mayors have made it very clear that they don’t like the idea of making their constituents pay the full cost of what it takes to build those projects. So, while tolls remain an option, it’s not one that the letter signatories like.

There are alternatives to spending mo’ money. For the benefit of new readers, or those readers who failed to absorb the wisdom imparted by my previous columns, let me review some of them.

  • Zoning reform. Reform antiquated zoning codes and comprehensive plans that lock suburban growth counties into “suburban sprawl” mode — a development pattern marked by segregated land uses, low density and autocentric design — and make it easier for developers to build compact, walkable, mixed use communities when supported by consumer demand.
  • Prioritize by ROI. Prioritize transportation projects that deliver the greatest social Return on Investment as measured by safety, congestion relief, economic development (attracting primary employers, not retail and service employers) and environmental impact.
  • Devolution. Align transportation and land use by devolving responsibility of secondary roads, along with the means to pay for them, to local governments. If local mayors and chairs make poor decisions, they should pay for them — not the state.
  • User pays. Restructure transportation financing to a “user pays” system — gas tax and tolls are the most practical means at the moment — in which those who benefit from transportation projects are the ones who pay for them. When users pay for transportation improvements, they are more discriminating about what they ask for.
  • Deregulate transit. Revitalize shared ridership by shifting away from the failed model of government-owned transit monopolies to a model based on competition, private ownership and innovation.
  • Technological innovation. Pursue new technologies that drive down the cost of building and maintaining roads. Two examples: the use of LiDAR technology to achieve breakthrough gains in surveying and design efficiency, and the use of cold in-place recycling of asphalt in repaving projects.

Will any of these alternatives to Mo’ Money be on the agenda of the Golden Crescent summit? I would be flabbergasted if they were.

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  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The “Golden Crescent”?

    It in the 1970s, it was the “Piedmont Crescent.” Any many of the problems you raise were the same, then too.

    Who gets paid for all this marketing BS? We’re in the wrong biz.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    I have been predicting this, on this web site, for years. It’s now happening. The “let’s screw NoVa attitude of the political elite in Richmond” inevitably spilled over to being a “let’s screw NoVa and Tidewater”. One thing about “the Richmond attitude” is an overwhelming and unsupported belief in the people who demonstrate that attitude. Who can forget the Richmond elite not only seceding from the United States but establishing Richmond as the Capital of the Confederacy. The rural and underpopulated South was going to thrash the industrialized North in short order. How did that work out?

    Now, the Republiclowns in Virginia are once again trying to fight a battle they cannot win. Apparently very short on basic math skills, the Republiclowns cannot understand inflation (as is evidenced by their insistence on a frozen gas tax) and they can’t understanding demographics (as evidenced by their attempt to crap all over Tidewater with absurdly high tolls). Let’s be honest – Virginia’s Republicans are just too dumb to govern.

    Now, Bacon goes all shrill in defense of his “Richmond attitude”. He says, “Someone else’s money.” when describing the belief of those in the Eastern part of the state that transportation should be funded. Does Bacon have any evidence that the eastern part of the state contributes less than it receives back? Of course not – facts create allergic reactions in Virginia’s Republicans. Hyperbole rules the day.

    Jim also seems to struggle with the basic concept of democracy. He thinks people will oppose indexing the gas tax to inflation. In that, he hopes the general population is as stupid as the Republicans in Virginia. They are not. As the people in NoVa and Tidewater see the results of the Republican incompetence regarding transportation in the form of usurious tolls those good people will wonder why the transportation revenues haven’t kept pace with inflation. Once it’s clear that the Republiclowns in the state don’t understand how inflation works they will vote for Democrats.

    As I’ve said before – “Bye, Bye RPV!”.

    Jim is also worried that indexing the gas tax to inflation is regressive. What a croc! You know what’s regressive? Idiotically high tolls foisted on suburban commuters because Republicans are economically illiterate.

    RIP RPV – Good bye and good riddance.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    One other good idea –

    1. The political elite in Richmond have mismanaged the state for centuries.
    2. First, they lost what is now Kentucky.
    3. Next, they lost what is now West Virginia.

    Perhaps it’s time for them to lose what would be known as Eastern Virginia.

  4. […] for Mo’ Money Posted on 13 April 2012 by Shaun Kenney ShareJim Bacon tackles Virginia’s transportation crisis: A number of years ago, the letter notes, there was an attempt to get the Golden Crescent to […]

  5. Darrell Avatar

    A pot of gold at the Nova end of the Golden Crescent, a leprechaun in Richmond, leaves a Sh!t sandwich in Tidewater.


    There’s Nova and then there’s Rova. Get the picture?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      My eyes aren’t as good as they once were but it looks like you guys have been gaining on Central Virginia for the last 10 years. Maybe if the Clown Show would spend some of the tax money you send them back in Tidewater you could continue the climb.

      I believe the two areas with the most unrealized economic potential in Virginia are Charlottesville and Virginia Beach. Charlottesville may be too remote to ever be a major economic hub (although they are already punching above their weight). Tidewater, in general, and Virginia Beach, in particular, could be an absolutely kick ass economic engine – if the Clown Show ever figured out how economic development really works. Meanwhile, they’ll keep building roads in Richmond and the Peanut fields while milking the growth engines with idiotically high tolls.

      1. I hate to prick your fantasy bubble, Don, but Richmond hasn’t seen a major new road or highway project since Rt. 288 opened eight years ago. And there are NONE on the horizon right now that I’m aware of. What IS on the horizon is tolls on Interstate 95 to pay for maintenance and improvements in Central/Southside Virginia. So really, please get off your anti-Richmond kick. It undermines your credibility.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          I hate to burst your “poet’s style analysis” but the facts do not support your arguments:

          Richmond is the 44th largest MSA in the US with the 66th worst traffic congestion.

          Washington is the 7th largest MSA with the worst (or, at best, top five) worst traffic congestion.

          Tidewater is the 36th largest MSA with the 30th worst traffic congestion.

          Now why would Richmond end up doing so much better than its population while Washington and Tidewater do worse?

          You should really start looking at the facts. Simply listing irrelevant factoids such as the last major highway project in Richmond undermines your credibility.


          1. Why should Richmond end up doing so much better than its population while Washington and Tidewater do worse?

            Go take a look at the latest Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute. Traffic congestion is directly correlated with the population size of the metropolitan region. Richmond certainly hasn’t pursued rational human settlement patterns. It is simply smaller, and smaller means less congestion. That’s a fact. When it comes to transportation issues, you deal in supposition. I deal in fact.

  6. DJR must have left his new company and signed on to be Til Hazel’s lobbyist. Til’s believed taxpayers were alive to pay higher taxes so he could develop more land.
    You cannot improve transportation with more money unless you also address demand. Many of the states that have increased their gas tax, e.g., Maryland, also have adequate public facility laws that postpone approval of new real estate development when public facilities are inadequate. Pass legislation that authorizes APF ordinances and allows taxpayers to enforce them in court.
    Also, allow taxpayers to enforce the proffer law in court. Local governments are supposed to obtain cash or in-kind proffers to pay for the facilities needed to handle the added demand caused by the development. Many of the states that have increased their gas taxes impose or allow localities to impose transportation impact fees. See San Diego County, for example. http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dpw/land/landpdf/transimpactfee/TIF2011/TIFAnnualReportFY0910.pdf
    As of January 1, 2010, the North Metro Area of the County imposed a transportation fee of $14, 598 per 1000 square feet of commercial construction. And $8167 for each SFH.
    What are the odds that these types of cost-based fees would also be imposed, along with a higher gas tax? Not very good. It’s easier to screw the pizza delivery guy.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      How many states have adequate public facilities laws? I don’t know the answer.

      But I do know the answer to this – How many states have raised their gas tax since Virginia last raised its gas tax? The answer is 48. Only Alaska has gone longer without moving the gas tax along with inflation.

      Facts are stubborn things. If you tell me that 48 states have adequate public facilities laws then I’ll concede that the adequate public facility law issue is EQUAL to the problem of Virginia’s Republicans thinking of inflation in the same category as tooth fairy.

      I argue with facts. You argue with hyperbole. Add some facts (not examples, facts) and I’ll gladly change my perspective to fit the facts.

      As for you example of localities imposing transportation impact fees – you are actually strengthening my point. Even without transportation impact fees regularly assessed the Clown Show still hasn’t kept the gas tax up with inflation. Meanwhile, other states (such as your examples of Maryland and San Diego) have done both.

      I agree with most of your points and some of Jim Bacon’s. I think adequate public facilities laws should be legislated throughout the Commonwealth (given Virginia’s central control of transportation funding the public facilities laws need to be centralized as well). I agree with Bacon’s idea on measuring ROI (although I wonder whether NIMBYs like the SELC will just use the studies as fodder for complaints against anything and everything). So, my idea is that anybody going to court to bring an ROI study into questions owes the Commonwealth recompense for all Commonwealth legal costs if they lose.

      However, Bacon screws the pooch with “user pays”. While he pays lip service to a fair system where all drivers pay to drive he is only too happy to endorse grossly unfair sell-offs of public assets to private corporations in highly localized “most drive free but a few pay immensely” scams.

      My contention is that the biggest problem with transportation is the unwillingness of the Clown Show to accept the reality of inflation. From there, there are many other problems. However, since my goal is to start solving the problems Rather than constructing unbelievable “bundles” of reform, I will push for the gas tax to be indexed to inflation and then move on to important but lesser problems.

      I suspect that both you and Jim Bacon simply want to freeload on future generations by refusing to pay your fair share of Virginia’s transportation costs. Every day that the gas tax remains frozen the state borrows money to pay for transportation that you are using and that you should be paying for. Indeed, you would have to pay quite a lot just to “catch up” what you owe from the Republicans’ frozen gas tax. Instead, both of you argue for unbelievable massive reform packages so that you can continue to freeload on future generations by paying in far less than you take out. How very Republican of both of you.

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    “Traffic congestion is directly correlated with the population size of the metropolitan region.”.

    OK ….

    And Richmond has the 44th biggest population size in America. But it only has the 66th biggest traffic problem. Where is the direct correlation that you reference? If it was directly correlated, shouldn’t Richmond have the 44th biggest traffic congestion problem?

    Meanwhile, Washington has the 7th largest population size and somewhere between the first and fifth worst congestion.

    Tidewater is the 36th largest and has the 30th worst congestion.

    I agree with the TTI. The two should be directly related. But they aren’t – especially in Richmond. Richmond has a far better congestion profile than it’s population would warrant. Meanwhile, DC and Tidewater have somewhat worse congestion profiles than their population warrants.

    If congestion is directly related to the population size of the metropolitan region then why isn’t Richmond’s congestion ranking closer to 44 than 66? How did 22 metropolitan regions in America that are smaller than Richmond end up with worse traffic congestion than Richmond? Why isn’t Richmond relatively ranked on both population and traffic congestion? Why are these questions hard?

    As you correctly note, “Richmond certainly hasn’t pursued rational human settlement patterns.”. Instead, Richmond has received an unfair share of Virginia’s transportation dollars. Hence, the Richmond metropolitan area has substantially less traffic congestion than should be the case with the “directly correlated” theory of the TTI.

    1. Take a deep breath, Don. When I said the size of the metro region is directly correlated with its congestion, I didn’t mean to say that there is a perfect, 100% correlation. Obviously! I meant that there is a significant correlation. The examples you provide are proof enough that there is a close connection. Richmond ranks 66th among all the MSAs in congestion — out of 340 or so regions.

      You finally get to the heart of your beef against Richmond with the assertion that “Richmond has received an unfair share of Virginia’s transportation dollars.”

      OK, Mr. Fact Guy, where are your facts? You *hypothesize* that the reason for Richmond’s lower traffic congestion is that the region got an unfair share of tax dollars. But that is a statement of faith for which you have no data.

      I don’t have the data either so I cannot disprove you. But I can point out a couple of revenue sources that the region enjoyed that other regions did not. VDOT placed three tolls on I-95 between Richmond and Petersburg long after the interstate was paid for through the late 1980s. It was a pain for locals, but it brought in a lot of money that got a lot of roads built. Additionally, the region paid for two major transportation arteries, the Powhite Expressway and the Downtown Expressway, with tolls. That’s two big projects — compared to a single toll road (Dulles) in Northern Virginia, a region twice the size.

      (I can also point to the fact that Arlingon County receives almost twice as much in transportation construction and maintenance dollars per capita as Henrico as evidence that, if anything, the Richmond region has been short-changed.)

      Richmonders have always paid tolls We’re used to them. We see the justification for them. Maybe that’s why we don’t whine and kvetch and blame all of our problems on other regions like Northern Virginia does.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        “But that is a statement of faith for which you have no data. I don’t have the data either so I cannot disprove you.”.

        Exactly. So, the alternative is to look at the inequitable outcomes and assume that there is some underlying reason for that inequity. Sorry, Jim, but on the best measure available, there something fishy about Richmond’s substantial deviation from its assumed position in the congestion ranks. Twenty two positions better than its size seems too large to be coincidence.

        As for paying tolls in Richmond – yeah, I’ve thrown a few quarters in the basket myself while driving on I-95. Although I don’t recall paying any tolls on I-95 in Richmond the last few times I went through. Are you sure there are still tolls on I-95, Jim? Hmmmm…. Let’s take a look:


        Oh, interesting! You Richmonders don’t actually pay any tolls on I-95. They took the tolls out. “Richmonders always pay tolls.”. Well, until you don’t I guess. I see tolls being taken out. Any new tolls coming your way, Jim? It’s interesting because there are some really big tolls coming to NoVa and Tidewater. But tolls have left I-95 in Richmond. I guess in Richmond tolls get taken out while in NoVa and Tidewater they are perpetually added.

        I’ve been throwing quarters in the baskets on the Dulles Toll road for years and years. Oh yeah, something else – I also pay 2.1% sales tax on gasoline purchases that you don’t pay. Right now, that’s another 9 cents a gallon.

        Also, I like your idea of counting toll roads. Unfortunately, you need to go back and visit again with Count von Count. The Dulles Toll Road and the Greenway are two separate roads operated by two separate entities. I guess that makes two toll roads in NoVa. And NoVa is three times bigger than metropolitan Richmond? Well, NoVa is hard to define. But the Richmond MSA is easy to define and there are 1.25M people living there. So, there must be 3.75M people living in NoVa. Weldon Cooper thinks there are 2.6M in NoVa. So, more like twice as big rather than three times as big. Sorry to diminish the hyperbole but facts are stubborn things.

        Now, let’s look at the cost of those tolls. The maximum two axle toll on the Powhite Parkway is 70 cents –


        And the maximum two axle toll on the Downtown Expressway. Hmmm …. Every time I google Downtown Expressway I get information that combines the Powhite Expressway and the Downtown Expressway. You know, kind of like they are one road, not two.


        “These roads form a 16-mile highway network that extends from Interstates 95 and 195 in Richmond into central Chesterfield County. Tolls range from 15 cents to $1.50, depending on vehicle size and toll collection location.”.

        Are we back to one toll road in Richmond and two in NoVa – which is twice the size of Richmond?

        Anyway, you forgot the quarter required to cross the Boulevard Bridge so I’ll have to give you that one.

        Anyway, toll prices. We have 15 cents to $1.50 for Richmond’s single toll road and 25 cents to cross the Boulevard Bridge.

        The Dulles Toll Road starts at 75 cents and goes to $2.50. And that’s on a 14 mile road rather than the Powhite / Downtown Expressway’s 16 mile road. Never a dull moment with facts. Richmond’s only toll road is substantially cheaper than the cheaper of NoVa’s two toll roads.

        But what about NoVa’s other toll road? The Greenway.

        Holy crap! The tolls start at $2.45 and go up to $5.55! And here’s the kicker, Jim – the damn road is only 14 miles long. So, you “put upon” Richmonders max out at $1.50 for a 14 mile jaunt while us freeloading NoVa people can pay up to $5.55 for the same distance.


        Let’s review:

        1. You contention that NoVa was three times bigger than Richmond turned out to be false. NoVa is twice as big.

        2. Your claim that there are two toll roads in Richmond turned out to be false. There seems to be one road – at least according to the people who run the road.

        3. Your claim that there is one toll road in NoVa turns out to be false. There are two – run by different entities with different toll structures.

        4. Your fascination with counting toll roads (even though done incorrectly in both cases) was proven to be somewhat simple-minded in that it didn’t consider the cost of the tolls. When that is considered, the NoVa drivers are paying a whole lot more.

        5. You conveniently forget the 2.1% sales tax paid in NoVa on gas.

        6. You never address the actual issue – that Richmond is the only population center in Virginia where congestion is far less than would be expected for a city its size. In the other two population centers, the congestion is noticeably worse than it should be for metropolitan areas their size. How did that happen?

        I know you don’t mangle the facts willfully. You just have that misconception that the crap you’ve been fed by the Richmond elite is true. Trouble is , it isn’t.

        1. You got me on the Dulles Greenway. That’s a second toll road, and I omitted it. I concede!

          But I would say this: If the Greenway counts as a “second” toll road, so do the Powhite and Downtown Expressway in Richmond. They are two independent projects that are interconnected. (The fact that the Richmond Metropolitan Authority authority administers both toll roads does not change the fact that the two projects were conceived and executed separately.)

          In every other regard that matters, you are wrong! Perhaps that’s because you don’t read what I say.

          For example, I didn’t say that NoVa is three times the size of Richmond. I said it was twice the size. Go back and read what I said.

          As for the I-95 tolls, I stated that they were tolled “through the 1980s.” Any reasonable interpretation would conclude that I-95 was not tolled after that… which, of course, it was not. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

          You do ask one good question above (even if you draw the wrong conclusion): “In the other two population centers, the congestion is noticeably worse than it should be for metropolitan areas their size. How did that happen?”

          Go back and read TMT’s contributions. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, over its many alternations between pro-growth and anti-growth, made a total hash of things. Conversely, Arlington County pursued a sound vision, and pursued it consistently over decades. Arlington is more densely populated than Fairfax — and congestion is far less of a problem. How do *you* explain the difference? I can hardly wait to see how you blame Richmond!

          As for me being “fed crap by the Richmond elite,” that’s ludicrous. (1) The Richmond elite isn’t remotely interested in the kinds of questions we address on this blog. (2) I’m not plugged into the Richmond elite. And (3) I’m not “fed” anything by anybody!

          Perhaps problem is the other way around — you’ve bought the anti-Richmond bilge that permeates so much of the thinking in Northern Virginia. No one likes to accept the fact that they might be to blame for the mess they’ve created. It’s always someone else’s fault!

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, over its many alternations between pro-growth and anti-growth, made a total hash of things. “. What does that have to do with the situation in Tidewater? Why is Tidewater also notably worse off than its size would predict? Why are egregious tolls that target only Tidewater in the offing?

            You Republicans should have found a way to avoid moving to a “two front war”. When it was the Richmond elite vs NoVa you had a chance. Now that you have started barfing all over Tidewater as well – you are doomed.

          2. DJRippert Avatar

            “Arlington is more densely populated than Fairfax — and congestion is far less of a problem. How do *you* explain the difference? I can hardly wait to see how you blame Richmond!”.

            There is always a reason to find fault with Richmond and I will do that here. But first – Arlington is more densely populated than Fairfax. Because it is closer to the city that spawned the suburbs. Here’s a shocker – Fairfax is more densely populated than Loudoun. Kind of like Henrico County is more densely populated than Hanover County. In fact, Arlington County was once part of the city of Washington, DC. Yet it is less densely populated than the city to which it once belonged.

            Now, let’s talk Richmond and Arlington. As you know, Arlington is one of two counties that manages its own roads. Of course, it doesn’t get to collect its own gas tax so it’s still dependent on the Clown Show in Richmond for funding. However, in this case, Arlington wins the dumb-off against Henrico County (the other “self-sufficient” county). Why? Because the political elite in Richmond are both incompetent and lazy. “State code designated that any county larger than 100 square miles that chose to maintain its own road would be paid at a lower rate than any county smaller than 100 square miles. As a result, Arlington historically has received nearly twice as much state funding per lane mile as Henrico. In the current fiscal year, Henrico receives $9,101 per lane mile – or about $12 million, divided into quarterly payments – while Arlington receives $16,121 per lane mile.”.

            There are 160,097 lane miles in Virginia. If every locality got the same annual stipend given to Arlington (per lane mile) then the state would contribute $2.58B per year (give or take state maintained roads). If each lane mile in Virginia got Henrico’s stipend, the total would be $1.46B. In fact, the VDOT budget for maintenance in 2012 was $1.8B. So, Arlington is doing considerably better than a gross average while Henrico is doing considerably worse. Interestingly, Henrico’s population density is considerably higher than the state average so it’s kind of hard to understand why it gets so short-changed vs Arlington. Oh, wait! Now, I remember …. it’s because Arlington has less than 100 sq mi inside its borders. That’s the Clown Show logic.

            So, once again, “Richmond” has created an inexplicable oddity with the way that funds for local roads are allocated to Arlington. In this case, it’s Arlington that has received “a bank error in its favor” and ends up with the long end of the stick vs Henrico.

            The answer for Henrico is obvious – split into five counties – East, West, North South and Central Henrico. Then, send the Clown Show for a bill at $16,121 per lane mile!

          3. DJRippert Avatar

            Oh … and Arlington is absolutely threaded with the very Metro system you can’t fathom in the context of Fairfax County. Jim, you are getting scary.

  8. Washington State, clearly a state with a strong technology industrial base. Here is a list of cities and counties in Washington that impose transportation impact fees on development.
    Ordinances Authorizing Transportation Impact Fees
    •Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 22.16 – Transportation Improvement Program
    •Bothell Municipal Code Ch. 17.045 – Transportation Impact Fees
    •Duvall Municipal Code Ch. 14.58 – Impact Fee Assessments
    •Everett Municipal Code Ch. 18.40 – Transportation Mitigation
    •Issaquah Municipal Code Ch. 18.15 – Transportation Concurrency Management (see Section 18.15.065 and 18.15.095 in particular)
    •Kirkland Municipal Code Ch. 27.04 – Road Impact Fees
    •Lacey Municipal Code Ch. 14.21 – Traffic Mitigation and Concurrency
    •Maple Valley Municipal Code Ch. 16.20 – Transportation Impact Fees
    •Marysville Municipal Code Title 18B () – Traffic Impact Fees and Mitigation
    •Newcastle Municipal Code Ch. 16.15 – Traffic Impact Fees
    •Olympia Municipal Code Title 15 – Impact Fees (see Ch. 15.04 and Section 15.08.050)
    •Redmond Community Development Guide Ch. 20D.210.10 and Ordinance No. 1943
    •Richland Municipal Code Ch. 12.03 () – Road Impact Fees (in Title 12)
    •SeaTac Municipal Code Ch. 11.15 – Transportation Impact Fees
    •Spokane Ordinance No. C34305 (), 11/08
    •Vancouver Municipal Code Ch. 20.915 – Impact Fees (see Section 20.915.040)
    •King County Code Ch. 14.75 () – Mitigation Payment System
    •King County Mitigation Payment System and Intersection Standards
    •Kitsap County Code Ch. 4.110 – Impact Fees (see sec. 14.110.200)
    •Snohomish County Code Ch. 30.66B () – Concurrency and Road Impact Mitigation
    Transportation & land use are complicated issues, especially in a place such as Fairfax County. Should the gas tax be indexed? Sure. Would that fix the problems? NO!!!! We need an enforceable adequate public facilities law; cost-based transportation impact fees on development; laws that either abolish or force transparency on the CTB and its funding decisions; a requirement to record and report gas tax expenditures on a locality basis; a requirement for transportation projects to be ranked based on ROI; and more outreach by state and local government to the people affected by development.
    The entire system in Virginia is broken. Just adding more money in the form of higher taxes makes the system even more broken. It is simply wrong and unfair to force the average resident of Virginia and small business to force them to pay higher taxes that are used for a slush fund. Now then, when can we expect to hear those businesses that want to see transportation improved in Virginia taking a stand for complete reform, including a taxpayer enforceable adequate public facilities law. When pigs fly?

  9. DJR – what roads are going to be improved? More money does NOT equal road improvements. Let’s take the Dulles Toll Road, for example. One could make a good argument that a higher gas tax could go to widen it. But does that argument really hold water?
    Neither the FAA nor VDOT have much additional right-of-way in the corridor. Right of way can be purchased or condemned. I’ve seen maps of the right-of-way needed to expand the DTR by 3 to 5 lanes, as suggested is necessary by Fairfax County DOT. Real live traffic engineers. That would take some strip taking and a few entire homes. If the owners would not sell, would the BoS use or support condemnation? Talk to any supervisor and she/he will tell you they don’t like condemnation. A big issue.
    The needed right-of-way goes through 6 or 7 Resource Protection Areas. Can the road-builders get permission to invade these stream protection areas? Another significant issue.
    Widening of the DTR would also require the destruction and rebuilding of a number of support facilities for the Silver Line that are being constructed or have just been constructed. How will WMATA, MWAA and VDOT address this issue? Another significant issue.
    Wolf Trap National Park. Westbound widening of the DTR would require land that is now part of the Park. Would the National Park Service agree to such a land transfer? Would the strong Wolf Trap Park supporter community accept this? The tree buffer between the DTR and the Filene Center would need to be removed, at least to a significant extent.
    Would the public in general support this? Another significant issue.
    The neighbors. Much of the DTR is bounded by housing developments. Even just considering the people whose property would not need to be taken, what would their reaction be to a wider and more noisy DTR? How long would they fight this? Another significant issue.
    This is just one example. Improving transportation in Fairfax County is extremely complicated and extends well beyond a need for more money. Many roads simply cannot be widened at the snap of a finger. Public transit is extremely expensive and often requires major tax subsidies that can pit program against program. With the certain cut-back in government contracting, a lot of people’s incomes are going to stagnate or even shrink. There might be resistance to higher taxes.
    Transportation problems in Fairfax County are extremely complex and go well beyond a need for money. This is why lots of people are trying to find real solutions that address the needs of all stakeholders and the complexities.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      You are still fighting a one front war. Unfortunately, your fellow Republicans have opened a second front in Tidewater with absurdly high tolls that will only apply to Tidewater. You complaints against the Fairfax BoS are starting to ring very, very hollow as other areas of Virginia fall under the same curse of the Clown Show that has plagued only NoVa in the past.

      As for your endless string of maybe, sort of, possible issues regarding the expansion of roads …. I see how quickly the Beltway was expanded once the problem was taken out of the Clown Show’s hands and given to a private company. Maybe the Clown Show in Richmond should raise taxes and pay private companies to expand roads without selling the roads to the private companies!

      “This is why lots of people are trying to find real solutions that address the needs of all stakeholders and the complexities.”.

      That certainly sounds practical. We will address everybody’s needs and solve for all complexities in advance. You should just admit that you don’t want any more development in Fairfax County. You are happy to leave the county in an unsustainable population density. You don’t care that it will crumble because you plan to be gone before that happens.

      Ed Risse was ALWAYS right about the need for alpha communities with high density within a clear edge. He never said that getting there would be free. So, now we are on our way to that outcome and you and Jim Bacon are suddenly perfectly happy with the existing state of sprawl. Is it really because you don’t have the gumption to put a little of your present money down for the benefit of future generations? Didn’t our parents put money down for our futures? Or did things like the Eisenhower highway system build itself for free?

  10. wow! I go away for a week and the number of posts explode! Hmmm..perhaps I need to shut up more and let others ideas flow!

    good dialogue. DJ has things screwed up, as usual! 🙂

    1. Name the 3 most import projects not built in NoVa for a lack of money.

    2. Why does VDOT maintain subdivision roads when 46 other states who also increased their gas tax don’t?

    3. what entitles anyone to a curb-cut for new development? What is the legal underpinning? If a development could not get a curb-cut without paying for the infrastructure impacts – would that not function as “adequate facilities”?

    4. tell me again why RoVa or the Fed Govt should pay for rail in NoVa.

    5. what would be better – the ability of an MSA/region to have a regional gas tax or for Va to increase the gas tax and “distribute” as they do now – totally without transparency and zero accountability of the CTB (which in my mind is little more than legislative trickery to gloss over how most transportation decisions in Va are made by unelected VDOT bureaucrats.

    6. tell me again why counties should not be responsible for the operation and maintenance of roads in their jurisdiction. If they were, every new development and subdivision would directly affect their costs and their taxpayers. I know.. it’s such a radical concept. Only 46 other states and all cities and towns in Va already do it.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Poor LarryG – always just a smidge off …

      1. I-395 expansion, I-66 expansion, Rt-7 overpass building. And I am sure that TMT will pipe in about somebody somewhere opposing those projects. Here’s reality – somebody somewhere opposes everything.

      2. Because Virginia is a Dillon’s Rule state unlike about 46 other states and the Richmond elite never give up power over anything. Even when they experiment with home rule – such as the Arlington / Henrico de-evolution – they screw it up beyond belief and then refuse to fix things. Henrico is getting screwed relative to Arlington and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. You want de-evolution? Amend the Virginia Constitution, take power away from the Clown Show and give both responsibility and authority to the localities – permanently (all of which is fine by me).

      3. I have no problem with an adequate facilities law. My only question is whether the law would have to be passed by the General Assembly or could it be implemented by the localities themselves? TMT provided a slew of examples of localities with home rule provisions in Washington State. However, he omitted the fact that the Washington State Constitution provides for home rule charters for counties (Article XI, § 4 (Amendment 21). Give counties home rule in Virginia and let’s start de-evolving lots of things. The less the Clown Show has to do with my life, the better my life will be.

      4. This question (especially with regard to the Fed) is almost too daft to answer. For public transportation, the federal government invested $10.3 billion during FY 2011, also the same as during FY 2010. Federal public transportation program funds are used to build and upgrade rail mass transit systems in major cities and to purchase and upgrade buses and facilities of local transit agencies. Just like Richmond, Larry. Lots of money from around the US goes wooshing through Washington only to be sliced, diced, skimmed and then reallocated back depending on who has bought the most politicians. It’s not the Feds’ money. The Feds have no money. All the money belongs to the people.

      The RoVa argument is equally idiotic. Why should I pay for anything in RoVa? Schools? Health care? Law enforcement? As I’ve said perhaps a hundred times – I am perfectly happy to have no inter-regional transfers in Virginia. Let each region fund itself. Let each region decide what they want in services versus what they are willing to pay for those services. When some region hits a long term skid people will leave for greener pastures. It’s kind of self-balancing. However, once you start having transfers then you will always wonder why somebody is paying for something that doesn’t benefit them. Some transparency would be helpful but the political elite in Richmond hate transparency. Which, of course, is another reason for more home rule.

      5. For perhaps the third time in this comment – ANYTHING that decreases the power of the Virginia state legislature would be a good thing. I just wouldn’t stop at the gas tax. I’d give self-government to regions for a whole myriad of things – including things like handgun legislation (within the confines of the Second Amendment and the Heller decision).

      6. Same question as #2.

  11. DJ should just come right out and advocate a special “Golden Crescent” tax for RoVa, eh?

    remember all that conservative-sounding “libtard” blather than emanated from Groveton? DJ seems to be about 180 degrees opposite than Groveton on “conservative” principles. I’d say that DJ is the alter-ego of Groveton, in fact.


    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Libtards favor direct wealth redistribution. I don’t. Libtards favor equality of outcome. I favor equality of opportunity. I believe that equal access to mobility is a function of equal opportunity, not equal outcome. Therefore, I oppose absurdly high tolls being foisted on a very small percentage of people because the Conservatards don’t want to keep the gas tax in line with inflation.

      Libtards favor gimmicks like the so-called Buffet Rule. I favor the elimination of tax breaks for everybody. Barack and Michelle Obama gave $48,000 to their two daughters this year. It is an idiotic tax loophole that favors only the rich. Assuming that the Obamas continue to shamelessly use this loophole, they could provide each of their daughters with half a million dollars of tax free income before they head for college. With prudent investing using tax deferred strategies (like buy and hold stock) both daughters could be millionaires before they graduate from high school. I think that’s heinous. Obama thinks it’s fine. Just like Obama thinks its fine that his BFF at GE runs a company that doesn’t pay any corporate taxes.

      Larry – you may be enslaved to the mindless party politics of our time. I am not. I am just as happy to support a good Republican idea as a good Democratic idea. For example, now that Virginia’s Democrats are putting forth legislation to index the gas tax to inflation they have made a friend in me. So long as Odumbo wants or play cultural warrior with gimmicks like the Buffet Rule while allowing and participating in disgraceful tax loopholes, I will be voting for whoever runs against him.

  12. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Wow. I am glad I am staying out of this dogfight. No one draw me in, OK?

  13. DJ drones on about why RoVa, indeed RoA (rest of America) should pay for Nova’s self-created transportation messes. He wants some poor smuck barely making ends meet in Southside Va to buy down congestion and subsidize tolls for those po folks in Loudoun who live in 500K homes 40 miles from where they work.

    DJ sez that it’s totally wrong to make the users pay…the users that drive the road because it’s “not fair”. Now..I ask you .. does that sound like a LIBERAL or what?

    Groveton has morphed into a tax&spend liberal and true to form..he wants to tax OTHERS to pay for the po folks in NoVa who have the highest per capita income in the entire country.

    and this is all the RepubliClowns in Richmond’s fault?

    like I said… it’s only a matter of time before DJ the Libtard advocates in addition to a gas tax index, a “Golden Crescent” surtax on RoVa!


    1. DJRippert Avatar

      And the tolls in Tidewater, LarryG? Your uni-dimensional argument is somehow blind to the tolls in Tidewater. Did the Fairfax County BoS force the Clown Show to put ridiculous tolls in Tideater too?

      You see. LarryG – surplus slurpers like Spotsylvania have finally needed to start leaching on the neck of Tidewater for enough money to keep up the welfare jurisdiction to which you have become accustomed. Time for the people in Spotsylvania to start paying for what they consume – schools, prisons, law enforcement, roads, everything.

  14. Let’s talk more about inflation. In the 1980s, the Reston Citizens Association negotiated proffer contributions for the re-planning of what is now Reston Town Center. The proffers were then approved by the Fairfax County BoS. The RCA’s president at that time was Janet Howell. She informed me in a discussion and in a follow-up email message that the landowners agreed to pay $200 M for transportation, make a major contribution to the capital costs for expanding day care in Reston and paying for an arts center.
    If you examine the Comp Plan for Reston, you will see that most of the land received less than, and no more than, a Floor Area Ratio of 1.0.
    Of course, since Reston Town Center was not built all at once, the proffer payments were made over time. But what is $200 M in late 1980s dollars for a 1.0 or less FAR worth today? What if Fairfax County would have indexed transportation proffers since the late 80s? What if the County would have used a ratio to increase the proffers to reflect higher FARs?
    Why didn’t Fairfax County use the tools the Clown Show had given it? Transportation problems in Fairfax County are more complex than just a shortage of dollars from the gas tax. Where’s the business community on proffers? Generally going along with the developers’ request to lower them. It’s easier to stick it to the pizza delivery guy.

  15. re: “surplus slurpers” and LibTards.

    The really funny thing in the Fred/Spotsy area is that we are filthy with
    tea party types and Conservative Republicans who are opposed to trails, parks, transit, VRE, AS WELL AS HOT lanes down I-95.

    The fact that many if not most of them are govt workers or contractors to the govt or businesses that serve government workers and contractors is even more ironic.

    I’m pretty consistent on tolls for urban congestion – no matter the geography. Whether it’s NoVa or Hampton Roads or Charlottesville, or I-95 or I-81 or I-64 … in urbanized areas that serve twice daily rush hours of mostly SOLO-driven autos – I’m totally in favor of tolls because that is, in my mind, TRULY user-pays – the folks who “must” or “have no choice” but to drive SOLO at rush hour are using up valuable highway capacity and SHOULD pay for it. The guy that drives 50 miles a day, solo, at rush hour on urban interstates is using up far more costly highway capacity than someone who drives 50 miles a day NOT at rush hour and NOT on urban interstates.

    He too, should pay, …his proportionate SHARE.

    A 5 cent increase in gas taxes generated by NoVa drivers is a drop in the bucket in terms of what it can buy in new highway infrastructure much less pay for Metro.

    DJ is frustrated and I don’t blame him but the reality is that there is no way the “State” is going to be able to pay to keep up with the way that NoVa is growing and as TMT has stated succinctly – the cost of transportation improvements SHOULD be on the new development and if that slows down development that is consumptive of transportation infrastructure – then that may not be a bad thing at all. After all, it IS the way that 46 other states DO operate.

    I might add that even though many other states have indexed their gas taxes, they STILL are building more and more TOLL roads because the gas tax is lousy at generating significant revenues these days. Va generates 2.3 billion in transportation revenues these days and only 800K of it comes from gas taxes. The motor vehicle and general sales taxes generate more revenues than the gas taxes do.

    Finally, ask what happens to the money that vehicles generate in taxes at the local level. Does it go for transportation? Nope.

  16. NoVa has essentially chosen to spend more money on Education – at the expense to transportation. They are not alone in Va.

    NoVa spends locally, about a third more on Education than most other places in Virginia – over and above what they “lose” in state aid.

    Down south of NoVa in the exurban counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania, the approach is essentially the same. We have substantial proffers for schools and virtually none for transportation.

    A significant amount of local taxes is personal property – vehicles. There is no real nexus between what we collect in taxes from vehicles and what we spend on transportation.

    Right up until the point where VDOT gave a shout out that it basically was broke – the counties continued the fiction that the traffic issues that accrued from development was a “core” state responsibility even though local leaders knew that the projects they had in their Comp Plans far exceeded anything VDOT had in their financial plans.

    So this is not just about NoVa or Hampton Roads but basically statewide in Va where our transportation policies have fostered an fundamentally irresponsible approach to transportation infrastructure – outside of the cities and towns (which ARE responsible).

    Across Virginia, the localities look at land in terms of what can be built on it to bring in more taxes and almost never what the impacts are of that development.

    The latest wrinkle from the General Assembly to have VDOT review comp plans is actually a good thing IMHO.

    The Feds actually require a constrained financial plan for the urbanized MSAs which they codify into MPOs. Succinctly stated, a fiscally constrained financial plan requires that only roads for which there is identified funding can be in the short and long range transportation plans.

    Those MPO plans vary dramatically from what many counties have as planned roads in their Comp Plans. In other words, the roads in local Comp Plans are not financially-constrained. They are basically fanciful wish lists with VDOT’s name on them and this is the opportunity for VDOT to say: “nope, we don’t have money for that road”.

    Of course the counties and developers are upset at this because it takes away their ability to continue to fool voters that development with transportation impacts will be fixed by VDOT.

    The bigger picture here is that whether it is NoVa, or Hampton Roads or Spotsylvania – the elected officials do the same thing. They approve development with significant transportation infrastructure consequences without any real funded plans to actually provide the needed infrastructure and at the same time they continue the fiction that providing the funding for that infrastructure is a “core” state responsibility as if the state would get that money from somewhere other than taxpayers.

    The solution is pretty simple. Make the counties more responsible for their decisions as we already have with cities and towns.

    The state would continue to be responsible for major roads that connect the geography of the state but roads that serve localities and local development need to be the responsibility of the local elected because if we don’t do this, they will continue to tell their constituents that the state will take care of the problems created by new development.

    This, by the way, is NOT an anti-development concept. This is a concept about transparency and accountability for land-use decisions so that voters know who caused the problems and who to hold accountable for those problems.

  17. A 5 cent increase in gas taxes generated by NoVa drivers is a drop in the bucket in terms of what it can buy in new highway infrastructure much less pay for Metro.


    And yet you favor tolls that are equivalent to a gas tax increase of 25 cents per gallon, and more.

  18. I’m totally in favor of tolls because that is, in my mind, TRULY user-pays – the folks who “must” or “have no choice” but to drive SOLO at rush hour are using up valuable highway capacity and SHOULD pay for it. The guy that drives 50 miles a day, solo, at rush hour on urban interstates is using up far more costly highway capacity than someone who drives 50 miles a day NOT at rush hour and NOT on urban interstates.


    I have said it over and over and over again, that guy who drives 50 miles solo basically does not exist. the average commute is only 27 minutes. wich means around 20 miles, on average. Take those 50 mile commuters off the road for a day and you will notice almost no difference.

    Second, by tolling the users you are going after the wrong beneficiaries of road use, which is at root cause the employers, not the commuters.

  19. I don’t really care if the commuters are long distance not or what the average commute is – they’re all using the roads and the kind of infrastructure that they need is far more expensive than typical two lane or even four lane roads.

    Interstate roads in rural areas can be built for 20 million a mile. Interstates in urbanized areas cost 100 million a mile and up and are much more expensive to maintain and operate. The folks that need these roads need to pay for them.

    In terms of beneficiaries – why should employers be subsidized for the transportation costs of their employees in the first place?

    Most folks who commute insist that they have no choice but to drive solo at rush hour. That might be true but it’s certainly a personal decision with personal consequences just as where you choose to live and what you chose to drive is.

    In terms of numbers of long-distance commuters, I invite you to most any overpass over I-95 in Stafford county on a weekday at the morning or evening rush hour and tell me that the number of folks who drives 50 miles is small.

    I-95 from Fredericksburg to NoVa is unfit for out-of-region east coast travelers during the rush hours.

    Those folks will gladly pay tolls to get a reliable trip around Washington and not drawn into 3 hours worth of stop and go traffic.

    In almost every urbanized area in the country with a beltway – we have this problem. The original purpose of the beltways – to allow “through” travelers to go around that city rather than get bogged down through it has been lost because the beltways fundamentally changed the way that urbanized areas develop and grow. This hurts the movement of goods and services by truck also. Many long distance trucking companies and even regional service countries have to stop and wait for the rush hour to clear.

    In most areas, there is no more room for expansion or if there is – it’s hugely expensive with no source of funds to do it.

    tolls are the obvious way to manage the use and to build funds to expand and improve them and the costs rightly belong to the folks who are using them and if employers want to pay their employees more to cover the tolls, good!

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