More Clues from Speaker Howell

In an op-ed column published Sunday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, provided more hints at the kinds of transportation solutions the tax-eschewing House of Delegates will be considering during the up-coming special section.

  • Tapping private equity funds to invest in toll-driven transportation projects.
  • Traffic demand management tools.
  • Expansion of teleworking opportunities.
  • Linking land-use decisions with transportation impacts.

Last week, Shenandoah Valley legislators released details of other strategies to Garren Shipley with the Northern Virginia Daily. These included congestion pricing, ranking transportation projects by traffic congestion mitigated and turning responsibility and funding for secondary road construction and maintenance over to local government.

Quietly and behind the scenes, the House appears to have spent the summer thinking through the most radical transformation of Virginia’s transformation strategy since the Byrd machine created the Virginia Department of Transportation decades ago. It’s going to be one heck of an interesting special session.

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3 responses to “More Clues from Speaker Howell”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Congrats to Speaker Howell and his colleagues who have recognized that:

    1. – business as usual – i.e. higher taxes and more money is not the entire answer

    2. – acknowledgement of the “NOVEL” concept of “return on investment”.

    3. – understanding that if more roads are provided that more people will drive more as long as it does not cost them more.

    Of course, the more cynical among us would question why our own Department of Transportation had not made these recommendations a long time ago and the GA did not have to re-invent the wheel.

  2. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    This seems so fundamental. Imagine going into one’s boss or the board of directors of a company and saying “I cannot do my job adequately without a big increase to my budget. By the way, I haven’t tried a single problem solving approach to see whether I can find any cost savings, better ways to do my group’s operating tasks, ranking my group’s tasks based on company priorities, etc.” Yet, that’s what VDOT, the Senate and the Governor are saying.

    If the truth of the matter were to be made known, the big barrier to change is the vested interests who profit under today’s system. If I win under today’s rules, I sure don’t want them to change tomorrow.

    I’m not aruging by any means that today’s winners are wrong or bad. They are simply persuing their self interest. But preserving the status quo that produces poor results for the average Virginian is hardly a reason for a tax increase.

    One of biggest shames is the inability or unwillingness of the mainstream press to dig into these issues, beyond the trite “Virginia has not raised taxes for transportation since the late ’80s. So a tax increase is well overdue.” Why do reporters and editorial writers presume that Virginia’s existing approach to transportation is the best of all possible approaches? Are therei no Voltaires in the press?

    I’m not arguing that a tax increase for transportation should never be considered, no more than any thinking boss or board of directors of a company would never consider increasing a department’s budget, regardless of the facts. But let’s implement the reforms first and measure their results. If such approach makes sense for business, why doesn’t it make sense for the Commonwealth?

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I recently read a release from the Association of General Contractors indicating that, despite a recent cooling in producer prices, prices for construction materials continued to increase. The general PPI for finished goods rose a 0.1 percent … seasonally adjusted, down from 0.5 percent in June, But the PPI for materials and components for construction accelerated to a 0.7 percent rise from 0.3 percent in June. Since July 2005, the overall PPI has risen 4.2 percent, while the construction materials index climbed twice as fast, rising 8.3 percent.” The AGC does not see a quick end to this trend.

    More reasons why we need to look at alternatives beyond just increasing the rate of spending and taxing. Businesses affected by this trend and increasing interest rates are likely to look at alternatives, why does the Commonwealth beyond the House GOP caucus?

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