McDonnell Administration Moving to Reclassify Roads

Click map for more legible image. (Image credit: Federal Highway Administration)

by James A. Bacon

The McDonnell administration has prepared legislation to reclassify state roads along the lines of the system used by the federal government, Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton told a transportation roundtable Friday sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia’s outdated classification of roads  — primary, secondary and Interstates — does not serve the commonwealth well, Connaugton said. Some “secondary” roads in Northern Virginia carry far more traffic than many “primary” roads in other parts of the state. By contrast, the Federal Highway Administration has a well-defined set of criteria for classifying streets as principal arterials, minor arterials, collectors or local roads based on their length, traffic volume and function in the road network.

The classifications are important. For one reason, the Virginia Department of Transportation allocates money for maintenance and construction to separate funds based on road classification. As Connaughton acknowledged, if Virginia changes the road-classification system, it will have to change funding allocation formulas. For another, the McDonnell administration is inching closer to devolving responsibility for maintenance of secondary roads to local governments.

Virginia is one of only four states in the country for which the state is responsible for maintaining secondary roads. “It’s crazy that the commonwealth is paving and plowing cul de sacs in Fairfax County,” Connaughton said. Moreover, formulas for allocating maintenance funds have become severely out of whack. VDOT pays cities an average of $17,000 per lane-mile for maintaining roads within their borders, leaving only $5,000 per lane-mile on average for county roads for which the state is responsible, he added. State law requires that reimbursements to cities be adjusted annually for inflation, which drives up VDOT’s payments to the cities over time. By contrast, VDOT’s main revenue source, the gasoline tax, is not adjusted for inflation — it has remained the same since 1986.

Whit Clement, former transportation secretary in the Warner administration, warned that legislators will be concerned mainly with “where the dollars fall out.” The way to pull off reform, he advised, would be to “hold rural areas harmless” by ensuring they don’t end up with less money than before. But that would require injecting new money into the system — money the state doesn’t have.

In related discussions, roundtable members explored ideas on how to raise more money for road funding. Among the candidates: Raise the motor fuels tax, pursue more public-private partnerships and create more special tax districts. There was little discussion in this Republican-leaning roundtable about exploring ways to moderate the number of Vehicle Miles Traveled through land use reforms or strategies such as Transportation Demand Management.

Connaughton was the exception. A critical reason for devolving responsibility for secondary roads to local governments, he said, was to put accountability for transportation and land use decisions at the same level of government. He cited Fairfax County’s decision to upgrade density in Tysons Corner, which will stick the state with a $1 billion liability for improving road access to the business district. He also noted that the City of Alexandria lobbied the Pentagon to relocate 6,400 defense workers to the Mark Center office complex, which will cost the commonwealth $100 million for transportation improvements. Local officials weren’t concerned about the transportation implications of their decisions, the secretary said: They assumed the state would pick up the tab.

Connaughton did not say if the administration had yet lined up anyone to sponsor its road-reclassification bill nor did he provide details on how VDOT  funding formulas might be rejiggered.

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35 responses to “McDonnell Administration Moving to Reclassify Roads”

  1. I don’t know what parallel universe Connaughton is living in, but down here in Tidewater we never see a VDOT truck. We see plenty of City of XXX trucks in parks, at Hardee’s, or hiding in the Walmart parking lot, but never pushing snow in a timely manner.

    Redefine all the roads you want there Mister Government Guy, but the fact remains West Virginia has better roads than most of the chassis crackers down here. You might ask yourself in your pondering why it is that the same roads get the same repair by the same companies, in the same place, every dang year.

  2. Because south Hampton Roads localities are cities, they are responsible for all road maintenance in the region. You don’t see much of a VDOT presence for that reason.

    Simply re-classifying roads won’t do much by itself, although it may allow the state to allocate maintenance and construction funds a little more efficiently. What reclassification does do is help set up the devolution of responsibility for what we now term secondary roads to the local governments where it belongs. Connaughton is absolutely right to be pushing this.

  3. classifying roads has another benefit – it establishes priorities and paves (pun intended) to put maintenance into one pot and use priorities to allocate according to classification rather than the arbitrary current system that allocates primary and secondary.

    it will better recognize roads that are very busy major roads that are starved of funds because they are “secondary”.

    it’s a modest but important step forward.

    the next thing – is for the GA to allow local gas taxes approved by referenda – AND INDEXED.

    this will be a big of a problem for the localities who already have local option gas taxes – i.e. the 2.1% VRE tax but it will still give the locality more/better options and allow citizens to put their money where their mouth is.

    The benefit of local option is that it will allow Va to hold the rural counties “harmless” by not taking anything away from them – but allowing all counties to ADD to if they wish.

    If we can have local option food, drink, and lodging taxes… for general fund purposes.. there should not be a problem with this local option.

    Finally – the GA could put a neat wrinkle on the referenda process.

    They could REQUIRE that the county LIST THE PROJECTS that WILL be paid for by the local option tax and people would know for sure that it would not be a slush fund.

    I think Connaughton has his head screwed on straight and knows what he is doing but he also realizes that in Va….transportation funding is a potent “3rd rail”.

  4. You cannot improve transportation with transportation demand management. Period.

    Transportation demand management will simply move people elsewhere, where they can travel freely.

    Of course, the way you prevent that is to control land use.

    If you think money, travel, and pollution can be saved this way, you have rocks in your head.

    A good analogy is the horse slaughter regulations. We used to slaughter around 135,000 horses per year for meat, both human consumption and animal feed.

    After horse slaughter was stopped, suddenly ly about 135,000 horses were being exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. This was bad for everyone but the places the business moved to.

    It will be the same with TDM.

  5. One option is to increase the gas tax, because it is not indexed and expenditures are.

    Heh, heh, heh.

    This is the O LY option that makes any sense, and it is the one form of transportation demand management that might work..

  6. well the purpose of TDM is not to stop people from using cars.

    it’s to convince ENOUGH people to not use cars at certain times and certain places.

    TDM welcomes you at 2 a.m.


    from the FHWA:

    Managing traffic demand today is about providing travelers, regardless of whether they drive alone, with travel choices, such as work location, route, time, and mode.

    we already do this in the private sector in many places.

    it costs an arm and a leg to park your car at peak hours….

    the airlines do this…. want to fly from the busiest airport at the busiest time? be prepared to pay.

    want to go during non peak.. you get a much lower fare.

    restaurants? want to eat the same entree for less? some charge less for the same exact meal during less busy periods…

  7. whether or not TDM is used (or not) should be up to the locality and region in my view.

    the problem with transportation all along is that it operates like a black box and people don’t know and don’t understand what is done nor why much less how much of their money is involved.

    I remain convinced that one of the most important reasons why there is an 80% opposition rate to raising the State gas tax – AT THE SAME TIME that many counties successfully pass transportation referenda …is that the driving public is (rightly) suspicious of money going to a purpose that is for all intent and purposes mostly very untransparent and totally unaccountable because decisions about what to spend money on are made by faceless and unelected individuals who are perceived to be operating on a “we know what is best” principle.

    people are suspicious of tax-funded organizations that operate that way.

    The suggestion that the GA offer each county a local option gas tax – if and only if a complete accounting of how the money is spent – is a path out of the starving gas tax conundrum. It obviously should include devolution but the county should be free to select VDOT on a fee for service basis to perform improvements, maintenance and operations but the key to this is that the county is now accountable for the funds and the county has a much more comprehensive ability to prioritize – and answer to voters for those decisions.

    People have shown that they WILL pay higher taxes for transportation if they know specifically what the projects are – and those projects are in their local or regional community.

    If this is where Connaughton is ultimately headed – he’ll get support. The only bad thing that could happen is if Coouch gets to be Gov and continues his focus on pitchfork and torch witch-hunting or moral backsliders.

    Then Connaughton would be trapped and spun off … while Cooch undoubtedly would be seeking to punish those in VDOT responsible for “hiding” unspent monies… or whatever…

    I call this “moving backward”. I at least give McDonnell credit for not being drawn into too many of these moralistic morasses….learned his lesson with Lee Jackson Day..etc…

    Here’s a big finger cross for Connaughton to move us forward.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    I am not sure how much the opinion of a Warner Administration transportation official matters. I guess Jim Bacon had to go backwards over multiple governors to find somebody with the quaint socialist theory that rural areas should be held harmless.

    Funny how people like Jim Bacon rail against subsidies until obvious subsidies appear for rural areas. Then, all of the sudden, subsidies are fine.

    I am sure Jim will claim that overpaying for rural roads and ignoring even the pretext of “user pays” is somehow a political necessity to get the Clown Show to pass necessary legislation. Then, he will claim that the General Assembly is really OK after all and they should continue to rule Virginia through the iron fist of a strong implementation of Dillon’s Rule.

    Connaughton is beginning to sound pretty uni-dimensional. Transportation is important but all this “sticking the state with the tab” crap is just that … crap. Where does he think the state gets the money it spends? from all those people who go to work every day and pay up to 5.75% of everything they earn to Richmond. And another percent of everything they buy? You know, the people who live in places that let others make simple-minded statements like needing to hold rural areas harmless. Yes, Sean, that is who pays your salary.

    In wrapping up, let me summarize. Rural areas can’t be asked to pay for their schools because that would be unfair. And they can’t be asked to accept a fair allocation of transportation funds because … well, because some guy from the Warner Administration says so. Yet, these same rural areas seem full of arch-conservative Obama haters who feel that Obama’s policies favor groups such as unions at the expense of the general taxpayer. Maybe so. However, Richmond’s policies favor communities which can’t economically sustain themselves. I am not sure that I see any difference.

  9. Apparently, Groveton can’t tell the difference between reporting and commentary. That post was straight reporting. I did not inject my opinion into the piece. I did not seek out Whit Clement regarding the political implications of trying to reform the state’s road classification. I quoted him because he was attending the meeting and engaged Connaughton on the topic at hand.

    But I will say this: Clement’s observations undoubtedly will prove correct. Legislators will ask, what does this mean for my district? And some will balk at reform because they perceive their districts as losers.

    Drawing attention to Clement’s quote is a far cry from Groveton’s absurd statement that I “rail against subsidies until obvious subsidies appear for rural areas.”

    To the contrary, while newspapers and other media outlets have totally ignored the issue of reforming transportation funding formulas, I have covered it extensively. I have covered it extensively because I know it’s a legitimate issue. Indeed, everything Groveton knows about the issue, he got from reading Bacon’s Rebellion because no one else is writing about it.

  10. TDM is a critical tool. Every network business deploys practices to manage usage, congestion, network quality and to postpone costly network expansion projects. Your cell phone company charges for minutes of use during the daytime, but gives away minutes at night and weekends. In parts of the country, kW of electricity are priced higher on hot summer afternoons than in the fall, winter or spring. Metrorail charges more for morning and evening rush than during the middle of the day.
    So it only makes sense for VDOT or other road operators to use TDM principles. Shifting trips to and from major employment centers earlier or later in the day reduces traffic congestion and avoids making new road improvements. Etc., etc., etc.

  11. Groveton continues to be so wrong on many things.. it’s really disheartening!

    First, let’s get schools out of the way. The 1% sales tax that the state collects is not owed to the locality. The locality already receives 1% to the county and another 1% to the schools.

    That 1% is to meet the Va Constitution requirement that every child in Va be provided with an equivalent access to education regardless of where they live.

    it has nothing to do with transportation at all as transportation has a separate dedicated source of revenue.

    Next – no matter how one feels about transportation revenues and allocations – refusing to recognize political realities is not only not helpful – but continuing to pursue it as an excuse for doing nothing else is the exact opposite of what Groveton has been advocating about leadership.

    Why in the world should Fairfax take a ” we’re going to get blood from a stone” or else we’re going to mess our own area up with a lack of planning/funding for transportation needs – that WE created with our land-use policies?

    Why not pursue a path that has some way to go forward?

    Groveton keeps saying that Dillon prevents NoVa from solving it’s own problems.

    While I seriously doubt that (NoVa already has more taxing authority than many rural counties)… let’s assume that it’s true.

    why not pursue those things that would enable NoVa to better control it’s own destiny rather than argue about decades-old theoretically subsidies to rural areas that even if true .. are piddling in terms of dollars and have zero chance of being changed for NoVa’s benefit.

    Finally, Groveton’s rah rah of the 29 Bypass that finally somebody is actually doing something about it… he turns 180% for NoVa and recommends that NoVa threaten to hold it’s breath until Daddy Clown Show in Richmond sends more money….

    come on Groveton… at least have a consistent position on these things!

    you’re sounding more conflicted than Mitt Romney…on issues…


  12. Before the state even thinks of devolution, it needs to fix the secondary road system it has let deteriorate. To wit: Between 2007 and 2009, deficient pavement on the secondary system increased from 25% to 31%, while in some districts, the pavement deficiency rate is almost 50%. VDOT estimates total maintenance needs for secondary pavement at $1.3 billion, and a “targeted” need at $338 million. This comes from the study ordered up by Connaughton. So why not stick local governments for that tab! So who is going to pay for the state being a bad actor for all these years and how?
    Got to chuckle about those bad old counties approving new subdivision streets ‘willy nilly.’ According to VDOT, only 10% to 15% of their entire maintenance allocation goes to subdivision street maintenance. That is because those streets are built by developers. Heck, my home was built in 1984 and VDOT did not get around to repaving the street I am on [which, unfortunately, has become a cut-thru street] for the FIRST time until 2007.
    Another laugh is local option gas taxes. I am sure that some unrealistic cap would be included. Let’s say Roanoke County approves one, but Botetourt does not. After all, we are against taxes in Botetourt. So travelers in Botetourt get to drive on crappy roads, but enjoy the benefits of good roads in Roanoke County.
    Despite railing against the burden of state maintenance, it did guarantee uniform maintenance standards. And, like everything else, devolution would be another in a long line of hugely unfunded or underfunded mandates. Do you really think that VDOT would not continue to impose its construction and maintenance standards on roads it turns over to the counties? Fat chance.
    Another trick up the General Assembly’s sleeve is to give a little money to counties for roads for a year or two and low and behold, higher priorities, such as continuing to not raise needed taxes at the state level or a sexy program to get one elected to higher office, will come along and guess what happens? Cut that road money! Counties are well aware of state bait and switch tactics. Just ask any of the 95, they will give you many examples of state trickery.
    No matter how logical or attractive it sounds, devolution without the state first fixing the disaster it has caused and a constitutional amendment to guarantee a fair and indexed to inflation share of road money for local governments, is a very bad deal for counties.
    Perhaps, we could get in the wayback machine to 1932, kill the Byrd Act, eliminate independent cities and counties and repudiate the Dillon Rule, things would be just fine. Ha! Bosun

  13. if the state / VDOT has spent every penny they have available and they still have unmet needs… what is the answer?

    I still don’t think Richmond nor VDOT is sitting on some huge vault of money…. and the rural county elected are not going to agree to raise the gas tax. About the only places in Va where a gas tax increase won’t get you tossed out of office is is the urbanized areas.

    So, why not let the urbanized areas (or any area) where people believe better infrastructure is needed… be able to pay for it..and to be reassured that their taxes will only go for their own needs and not get diverted elsewhere.

    If we don’t devolve the roads…what will happen is the lack of maintenance will accelerate…. because .. basically …you cannot get blood from a stone.

    I can guarantee that the 80% who oppose an increase in the gas tax – don’t know what devolution is…. and really don’t care!

    the 20% who do care… almost never live in rural areas.

    if the only way to catch up on maintenance is to raise taxes…..
    then what next if the various elected reps from the rural counties refuse to raise the state tax?

    what is the choice after that?

    how are you going to get VDOT to fix more roads if there is no money?

  14. Groveton Avatar

    “No matter how logical or attractive it sounds, devolution without the state first fixing the disaster it has caused and a constitutional amendment to guarantee a fair and indexed to inflation share of road money for local governments, is a very bad deal for counties.”.

    Exactly right!

    The state legislature cannot be trusted.

    The only answer is for the state to first float bonds to start to repair the mess they have made. McDonnell has done this and the usual suspects are howling.

    Then, the state needs to de-evolve everything possible regarding transportation including the raising of funds for transportation. The goal should be to keep as little power over transportation at the state level as is humanly possible.

  15. Groveton Avatar

    It’s interesting to read Jim’s toggling between editorializing and “straight reporting”. When it’s Rail to Dulles, it’s full editorial mode. When it preserving the status quo by “holding rural communities harmless” it’s straight reporting.

  16. Groveton Avatar

    As for LarryG’s theory that the Virginia Constitution requires school funding subsidies … I’d like to see where he finds that in the constitution.

    Here is an article from 1994 where the Virginia Supreme Court seems to held just the opposite.

  17. Groveton Avatar

    I believe the case was Scott vs. The Commonwealth. The decision was unanimous.

    “In Scott v. Commonwealth, plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the current system of funding public elementary and secondary schools violated the Virginia Constitution by denying some children “an educational opportunity substantially equal to that of children who attend[ed] public school in wealthier divisions.” 443 S.E.2d 138 (1994). The Virginia Supreme Court declared education a fundamental right under the state constitution, but also held that the state constitution does not require equality in funding or programs.”.

  18. Groveton Avatar

    Here is the key paragraph …

    “In 1994, the Supreme Court of Virginia declared that education under the Virginia Constitution is a fundamental right of all children of school age in that Commonwealth. However, the court stated that “nowhere does the Constitution require equal, or substantially equal, funding or programs” in each public school division of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Scott v Commonwealth (1994)”.

  19. Groveton Avatar

    I’ve cited relevent case law in asserting that your following statement is false:

    “That 1% is to meet the Va Constitution requirement that every child in Va be provided with an equivalent access to education regardless of where they live.”.

    Please either provide me with the language in the Virginia Constitution which you feel supports your statement or direct me to alternate case law on the matter.

  20. Groveton – here’s something from the Cooch himself:

    let me know what you think….

    but again.. why are the fighting the past here?

    what is the path forward – the “reasonable” and “feasible” path forward?

    you keep litigating the past but that’s not going to accomplish anything.

  21. I do believe that Groveton is correct in this particular matter (though wrong about everything else today!) My recollection is that the state funding formulas for education were revised during the Wilder administration. Wilder is the one who argued that it was necessary to transfer wealth from affluent counties to poor counties and cities in order to ensure a decent education for all Virginians. I’m fuzzy on the details, but I’m pretty sure that was the genesis.

    Assuming my memory serves me correctly, the state constitution does have a provision requiring the state to provide a quality education — but there’s a lot of gray area in that requirement.

    The current funding formula is an abomination. My personal belief is that we should stop punishing counties (like Fairfax and Arlington) that pour huge resources into their schools, as the current formula now does. (Please take note, Groveton, I don’t adhere to many of the beliefs that you ascribe to me.) The state should have a simple, transparent formula that everyone can understand, in which a certain amount of money follows every student, with special allowances for special needs students. Thus, (to pick numbers for purposes of illustration), the state would send a flat $5,000 per pupil to every city and county, and add $2,000 for every special needs student. That would guarantee poor counties a minimum level of state aid, yet it would not punish Fairfax and Arlington for the high standards they set for themselves.

  22. here is the key passage (IMHO):

    ” The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality, and shall provide for the apportionment of the cost of such program between the Commonwealth and the local units of government comprising such school divisions. Each unit of local government shall provide its portion of such cost by local taxes or from other available funds.”

    with regard to special needs – I don’t see how that pits counties against each other.. especially since a good bit of it comes to the Feds on a per student basis.

    but again.. the 1% sales tax is NOT a tax that belongs to the localities. It belongs to the state (much like the income tax does) and it’s the State’s responsibility to fund the SOQs.

    The SOQs are a standard that applies to all school districts and is based purely on school population – and in turn – what level of staffing is required to meet the standard.

    The GA is delegated in the Va Constitution for deciding the “manner” of how the SOQs shall be allocated funding.

    At the very least – one would have to admit that the State and the GA is NOT VIOLATING any provision in the Constitution and the argument is over what the GA should be doing – not whether or not it has the Constitutional authority to do it.

    All states have to deal with this issue by the way. This is not unique to Va. Most every state uses taxes to allocate NOT proportional to where the tax came from but instead on a per student allocation basis ..each student gets an equal share of MINIMUM Standards.

    Transparency is a funny issue here. For Fairfax or Henrico – why don’t ya’ll find out how much your locality allocates on a purely VOLUNTARY basis with no state or federal mandates at all – local funding…. and tell me what that money is spent on.

    With the Feds AND the STATE – the budgets are mandated to show what the Fed and State money is spent on but no such provision for local discretionary funds….

    but again.. why is this a transportation issue? or …why make it one… if the end game is naught anyhow?

    Groveton rails against the clown show’s way of doing business but when asked why Fairfax doesn’t push on …he also blames Richmond.

    so Fairfax/NoVa is already getting screwed by Richmond yet Groveton wants Richmond to raise taxes statewide in what hope? that they will “not” screw Fairfax/NoVa this time? ha ha ha (not that I entirely buy the “screw” Fairfax/NoVa narrative that much anyhow as you hear the very same complaint from Hampton and Richmond and other cities in Va.)

  23. The problem in any urban or suburban county area is that local government consistently approved more development than could be handled by the road system. We could have had regular increases in the gas tax and we would be in the same position. So long as the counties are free to blame Richmond for the transportation problems while they approve Comp Plan changes and grant rezonings, the game will continue. The games are played locally and at the CTB.
    Look at the foolish decision of the CTB to fund a study of the Outer Beltway when Maryland will not build a bridge or connect the OB with its road system. At the same time, Virginia proclaims Tysons is a key economic engine, but the CTB wants to put money in western Loudoun County, where the BoS does not want this road, instead of into roads for Tysons.

  24. ” We could have had regular increases in the gas tax and we would be in the same position.”

    indeed. North Carolina does roads like Virginia and it’s tax is 26 cents a gallon and it’s in as much or more trouble than VDOT is and they’re trying to get the tax increased and have formed a toll road authority.

    there is a law in Virginia called “Official Map” that allows the locality to designate roads – existing and future so as to preserve corridors…. and to be landowners on notice that the corridor is selected and will be ultimately built.

    § 15.2-2233. Maps to be prepared in localities; what map shall show.

    as far as I know.. not very many…perhaps not any counties in Va have designated their roads system.

    Designating roads means you are explicitly planning land-use and transportation.

    not designating essentially results in ad hoc development proposals that may well be incompatible with the Comp Plan in terms of road network but the lack of that designation invites such proposals.

    but the worst impact… is that when a proposal is made – the jurisdiction does not have a plan for the road upon which to specify proffers and improvements including setbacks on 2-lanes ultimately to become 4-lanes.

    it’s difficult to ask a developer to give up frontage for something that is not even on a future map so we end up with very expensive widening projects that require right-of-way from developed properties – to include having to move utilities … electricity, water…sewer.. etc…

    this is one reason VDOT has started requiring 527 TIAs on specified traffic generation threshold basis – because the counties were not.

    VDOT has their faults and Va has it’s faults with respect to transportation policy but none is bigger than allowing the counties to make land-use decisions and holding VDOT (taxpayers) responsible for the financial consequences.

  25. Just got off the phone from a 20 minute questionnaire from vdot.

    Dumbest questions ever on a questionaire.

  26. Bosun is right. This plan will be a mess. Tdm uncluded. Tdm is not about congestion pricing. It is about reducing travel. Transportation demand reduction.

  27. Groveton Avatar


    “The problem in any urban or suburban county area is that local government consistently approved more development than could be handled by the road system. “.

    That assumes an infinite demand for development. There is no such infinite demand.

    “We could have had regular increases in the gas tax and we would be in the same position. “.

    For that to be true the increases in the gas tax would have to result in no effect. While Richmond might be frighteningly inefficient, it does not operate at zero efficiency. Increases in the gas tax would have helped keep transportation funding closer to inflation and would have helped.

  28. Groveton Avatar


    “indeed. North Carolina does roads like Virginia and it’s tax is 26 cents a gallon and it’s in as much or more trouble than VDOT is and they’re trying to get the tax increased and have formed a toll road authority.”.

    Please find one survey where any city in North Carolina has ever been rated among the worst for traffic congestion in the US. Now, please find one survey where Northern Virginia has not been rated among the worst for traffic congestion in the US.

    Also note the speed at which the Beltway toll lane project is progressing. While I disagree with the policy of only charging certain drivers in certain areas for the right to drive, the fact that Flour – Transurban are working at 2X – 3X the pace of VDOT further proves VDOT’s ineffectiveness.

    Our state government is ineffective in everything it does.

  29. Groveton – has youse ever been to Charlotte? Anyhow I’ll accept your premise because what I as pointing out is that NCDOT is as broke or worse than VDOT despite the fact their gas tax is a nickle higher.

    on VDOT’s ability to build infrastructure.. I agree .. VDOT is a moribund agency in many ways and down our way – new roads get built by developers 3X as quick (or better) thanVDOT roads.

    except where there are utilities and things really slow down.It’s going to take a private contractor 3 years to add lanes to 2 miles …but VDOT is calling the shots….

    this would be a big advantage to devolution. VDOT only looks at A to B segments and will not break them up into phases…. whereas a county in control of it’s own resources -could.

    the other advantage is that devolution would force the counties to better plan development and transportation upgrades in concert with development.

  30. Larry g – I agree that there will never be enough money. I think some counties would be a little more receptive to devolution if the state would fix what it let deteriorate over the past decade rather than give a deteriorated road network to counties with no recourse but to raise real estate taxes and/or cut other non-state mandated services.
    I would agree that 527 TIA, along with new subdivision street regs and access management, are good. But the GA speaks with forked tongue. At the request of residential and commercial developers, they passed bill in 2011 that began to weaken those three things. The sub regs had been in existence for no more than a year and because of the downturn, less than 30 new subdivisions had been subject to them, but the homebuilders did not like them. I am sure the counties did not protest too much since they never liked VDOT [or any other state entity] sticking their noses into local land use decisions or telling inconvenient truths.
    NCDOT – what you said about their current condition may be true, but NC had a first-class internet system while I was still trying to figure out Virginia’s three-lane highway system. I may also remind you that the road system in NC is devolved, so how did that help or hurt? Bosun

  31. Demand for development. The requests for rezoning at Tysons, both filed and preliminary, have already gone passed the limits in the new Comp Plan. That means, if these requests were granted and the projects built, traffic volumes would reach the failure rate even if all of the road improvements, TDM, mixed use development, additional transit, etc., occurred. And that’s just for Tysons. Reston, Baileys Crossroads, Springfield and Annandale are also looking at major urbanization. The intention is to pack a lot more development into Fairfax County. I think it’s crazy, but I’m just one person.
    My other issue is why should we assume that the transportation projects that could be built with additional tax revenue would actually be ones that provided significant traffic relief? Transportation decisions in Virginia are highly driven by landowners and developers. And they don’t care a wit about traffic congestion relief unless that relief touches their property. Moreover, look at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce supporting the Outer Beltway even though there are better investments in Fairfax County. Heck, Doug Koelemay was the Outer Beltway’s proponent on the CTB. You’d think he would support Fairfax County interests instead of Til Hazel’s. More money means more crony capitalism. We need reforms concomitantly with a higher gas tax.

  32. Groveton Avatar

    The numbers are the numbers.

    From 2000 – 2010, Fairfax County grew from a population of 969,749 to 1,081,726. That’s a gain of 111,977 over ten years or about 12,000 per year.

    Wishing away population growth on other localities may be acceptable in Western Loudoun or Fauquier.

    We need about 3/4th of the 12,000 additional people to go into a few high density locations like Tyson’s. The other quarter, unfortunately, will be spread around the rest of the county.

    I spent some time looking at office space near the new Wiehle Rd. metro. If the people who built those tired little office building over there in 1985 did so because they knew the Metro was coming then they are clairvoyant geniuses and we should just let them have the money.

  33. population growth especially in places like NoVa is inevitable … which is all the more reason to understand that 100K people will generate a million more auto trips a day ….and to explicitly plan for that when you do land-use decisions.

    we’re basically making excuses here saying that we have no choice but to generate traffic when we grow… AND it’s not our responsibility to plan for it but the states/VDOT’s responsibility to pay for it no matter how badly planned it was.

    the solution here is to plan better… pay more for roads …and bear the consequences of failure and stop blaming others.

  34. re: ” Larry g – I agree that there will never be enough money. ”

    well… it’ s really up to the locality to plan in ways that are less damaging and expensive to their local road systems.

    you can do that way, way better when you have to pick up the tab than someone else.

    and at some point.. we’re going to get on that devolution train so there is no good time….

    devolution is better. You get much more control over priorities… over phasing and with a plan in hand… a much more powerful position when dealing with development.

    You say NC has devolved. I do not think so…. I’m pretty sure the are just like Va….. they are right behind us in the most road miles of states… I think it’s Texas, Va, NC.

  35. Groveton Avatar

    Well, I certainly agree that we need to stop thinking we are so unique. The only things I accept as unique are the things that can be measured. For example, our traffic congestion in Northern Virginia is, unfortunately, unique.

    However, here are some myths:

    1. Fairfax County and/or “core” NoVa has some unique level of sprawl. Drive around Chicago, Orange County, CA, Long Island, Silicon Valley, Atlanta, etc. They all look the same. I also see no difference between Henrico County today and Fairfax County in the 1970s. My bet is that there will be no difference in how Henrico County develops. I drove to Charlottesville this weekend. Looks a lot the same there too.

    2. It’s all strip malls and ugly McMansions in NoVa. Hey, it’s all strip malls and ugly McMansions everywhere. Came back from fishing in the Outer Banks a few weeks ago. Stopped in Henrico County. Had my choice of strip malls. Drove past Warrenton on the way to Charlottesville. Lots of tract housing there.

    3. Warrenton is something other than a bedroom commuter community. The population of Warrenton was 6,670 in 2000. It’s estimated at 14,634 in 2010. Two and half times bigger? Why? Because of all the economic development in Warrenton? Hardly. Just another Fredricksburg, only west rather than south.

    4. Big developers drive decisions in Fairfax County but not elsewhere. Economic growth drives decisions in Fairfax County. Developers don’t increase the population, jobs increase the population. Developers certainly try to cash in but they do that everywhere the population is increasing.

    5. Local government is always corrupt. I know some of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. I know where they live, how they dress and what cars they drive. If they’re stealing money then they’re doing a good job of hiding it.

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