House, Senate Agree on Landmark Reforms

Like it or loathe it, there is no other word to describe the General Assembly’s compromise on transportation and land use in Virginia: monumental.

The legislative package represents one of the most far-reaching overhauls of Virginia’s transportation and governance since the Depression-era organization of the modern-day transportation system in 1932. If a deal can be reached with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine — and given his previous rhetoric, it is difficult to see how he can do anything but tinker on the margins — Virginia state and local government will be sorting through the implications for years.

The press release issued by the General Assembly leadership can be viewed here.

The Governor’s reaction: “We have concerns about some elements of this proposal, but I recognize that this is an early – and significant – step in the legislative process.” Read his press release here.

The Attorney General’s office has issued a statement, which I will link to as soon as it is posted online.”

The grand compromise includes the following three elements: transportation funding; land use reform and a realignment of state and local responsibilities for road maintenance; and a radical overhaul of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

  • Reform “linking transportation and land use.” The package includes all of the major governance reforms introduced by the House of Delegates in the September 2006 transportation special section and modified slightly for this session. These allow for (1) the creation of “urban development areas” in fast-growing counties, (2) the establishment of “urban transportation service districts” whereby Northern Virginia localities can take over responsibility for secondary roads, and (3) a ban on VDOT accepting any “local subdivision roads” into the state system for maintenance.
  • Transportation funding. The transportation funding package would raise $500 million annually in recurring statewide revenues from the General Fund, the General Fund surplus and a variety of other sources. This would be supplemented by $2 billion in bonds issued over five years. Additionally, regional transportation authorities would be able to raise up to $383 million a year in Northern Virginia and $209 million a year in Hampton Roads to spend regionally.
  • VDOT reform. The package envisions sweeping reforms for the way VDOT does business. It would (1) institute”quantifiable and achievable goals” relating to congestion and safety; (2) put VDOT functions for competitive bidding; (3) streamline the environmental review process; (4) require tolls to be electronically automated; (5) reclassify primary, secondary and urban roads to bring them in line with current function; and (6) allow the General Assembly to elect at-large members to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

That’s just the highlights, folks. This is massive. I’ll follow up tomorrow with commentary on the package and a critique of the Mainstream Media presentation of it.

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7 responses to “House, Senate Agree on Landmark Reforms”

  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Tax increases and regional government – what a surprise. Not.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One of the quotes… from Howell as he was announcing the compromise was something to the effect … ” a long way to go”.

    Oh but it would be so nice to think all of the stuff mentioned is a done deal – an all or nothing… grand agreement.

    An obvious question is WHO is signed on to this – and who is not.

    The second shoe… the guys wearing the “lobby” credentials… you can bet … are not headed home pouting and licking their wounds….

    This is the part… where the sausage machine is fired up….

    hold your noses… and shield your eyes.

  3. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    Is “(1) institute”quantifiable and achievable goals” relating to congestion and safety;” the General Assembly response to the audit recommendation Recommendation #28 (General Assembly and Governor): Amend the Code of Virginia to change the current allocation system so that Transportation can base their priorities and criteria on statewide needs rather than by district, county, and city.?

    Reference: Page57

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’ve said before that I have no hidden agenda or preference in how things turn out, except that we decide to do something rather than nothing.

    I think I’ll hang on to my Alexandria house for a few more years. I suspect this will result in major increases in existing home prices. Why buy a home where you have to pay for the roads, when you can buy one whre the streets have already been accepted?

    Why buy a house on a tiny lot in the urban growth areas when you can buy an existing home on a larger lot?

    How many people are going to look at the condo fire in California today, and say, no thanks?

    Yesterday, my office had a new employee. He is looking for a place in Gainesville. I tried to tell him that a place closer in was a better investment, even if it costs more. Don’t do it, I said, the drive will kill you nad it is a huge waste.

    His answer was in two parts. He had just come from Germany, where he was living in base housing. He said his wife hated it. Under no circumstances would she ever accept “a shared wall”.

    Second part was that his previous Home was in St. Louis. For what he sold it for out there, he couldn’t buy a shack here. His rent there will be a thousand dollars amonth less than lesser homes closer in.

    Northern Virginia will get to still send major dollars out of the area, and they will get to pick up the tab for their own roads. Isn’t that why they turned down the previous referenda?

    Jim Bacon apparently sees this as a major win for his point of view. I think I’ll hold off and watch for a few years before I make any decisions about the outcome.

    If JAB is right, and it comes down to tax increases and additional layers of government, then nobody wins.

  5. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Read the Virginian-Pilot article today – the end says it all – Senator Stolle reports that the small group that cobbled this together heard from the PORT LOBBY that failing to fund thir fat-too-expensive so-called “3rd Crossing” was unacceptable! There it is – this has practically NOTHING to do with reducing the traffic congestion that we RESIDENTS suffer – it is all about the port.

    * We do not need the $4.4B VPA so-called
    “3rd Crossing” – it does not reduce commuter traffic congestion!

    * We do not need unaccountable, all-appointed REGIONAL GOVERNMENT to improve our roads

    We are being screwed – right before our very eyes – and “my guys”, the Republicans – are responsible!

    I love Bob McDonnell to death – but he failed to do the right thing – and he too has lost my support. This saddens me.

    Republicans should be standing up to the business lobby in support of less taxes and smaller government.

    Folks – to top it all off – there is no plan to do anything!

    What are we raising taxes FOR?

    No one knows!!! It is a HUGE new slush fund!!!

    This is simply horrible government.

    WHAT road improvements do these billions of new taxes buy?

    No one knows!

    WHEN will any improvement be available for use to use?

    No one knows!

    WHERE will these new transportation improvements be built?

    No one knows!

    Who is accountable to do — what – with these new billions of taxes and bond debt?

    No one knows!

    This is a horrible “solution” that does nothing other than increase taxes and create unaccountable regional government with taxing and tolling authority – heck, even if Virignia Beach voted “No!” – if 6 other city governments vote YES – Virginia Beach taxpayers are FORCED to accept regional government!!!!

    Where is the REGIONAL REFERENDUM to allow use to VOTE on a new Regional Government/Authority???

    Oh, after November 2002 the GA knows it will FAIL – so they don’t allow us to vote this time.

    I am so disgusted.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Look on the bright side.

    Perhaps the reforms will pass and the rest will go down the tubes.


  7. E M Risse Avatar

    The real problem is calling this a “reform,” a further “deform” would be more accurate.


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