Jim makes some good points re the work of Philip Shucet the former VDOT commissioner who now works for a private developmer.

However, before we move to canonize Shucet let us recall that:

The role of government is to provide service, not to cut costs.

Cutting costs are fine but how about measures of performance?

During Shucet’s term VMT continued to grow faster than drivers, cars or population. Congestion got worse every year in every region of the state.

There is still not one major VDOT project that is designed to improve the pattern and density of land use.

There is also not one major project that is designed to serve the exiting land use, zoned land use and planned land use in the corridor. See “Anatomy of a Bottleneck” at

That bottleneck summary was first written in 2000 and rewritten in 2003. We just looked it over and the only up date is that there is now some money now available to do some of the roadway and safety work near and east of the Gainesville Interchange on I-66. However, there is also more of the formerly “zoned and planned land uses” now under development, construction and occupied than the new capacity can accommodate.

There may be some sour grapes but there is more to what Ken Anderson says than Shucet admits in his response that Jim posted.

Let us keep in mind that it is easier to cut back when you are building less. We have not noted Virginia getting any awards for the quality of maintenance which is what a lot of those District office staff do. In the Culpeper and “Northern Virginia” Districts we have seen few sign so improvement. Is not the terrible condition of the existing system one of the reasons we need to raise Billions?

When VDOT’s own forces took months to lengthen the left turn lane at the US Route 29/US Route 15 Intersection we were reminded of Ada Louise Huxtable’s famous The New Yorker story “Will They Ever Complete Bruckner Boulevard?”

The lowball contract for widening of I-66 west of 234 does not provide for adequate maintenance of capacity. This has resulted in years of cumulative delay time (we call it “person slaughter” in The Shape of the Future). Now the contractor plans to shut down first the eastbound lanes and then the westbound lanes every evening for a month each for “repaving.” That is a way to cut costs of construction but not a good way to provide access and mobility.

Did not George Allen already get the all time prize for reducing VDOT staff? That sure helped mobility and access.

When he left office Shucet sent a memo out that, according to a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said in part: “There is no indication that automobile use will decline in coming generations–even considering the increased cost of gasoline”

That statement alone should condemn him to the opposite alternative of canonization. “Generations” is 50 years. What was he thinking?

Perhaps about his next job. A lot of people who do a good job in the public sector have been hired by the private sector. They are hired not because the job they did looking out for the public interest but because of their contacts or their abilities that will make money for the private enterprise. That is the way the competitive environment works but it is not the basis for sainthood nor, apparently, the path to mobility and access.


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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Actually, Ed and I agree. Philip Shucet did a super job of running VDOT within the parameters of a Business as Usual transportation policy, but (a) there’s still a lot of work to be done, as he would be the first to admit, and (b) he did not change many of the things that needed changing, many of which Ed enumerated. In my conversations with him, Philip was very candid about the need to make some of the same changes — particularly the need to tie transportation and land use planning — but those Fundamental Change-like reforms fall outside his bailiwick. They are matters for the Governor, the Secretary of Transportation and legislators to address, I would argue, and the responsibility to move them along rests with them.

    As far as the transportation-land use link, the Warner administration moved the ball a couple of yards down the field, but no farther. For the first time in my recollection, someone at the governor’s cabinet level at least talked about the issue. That is progress of a sort. Tim Kaine is moving the ball a little farther down the field, making land use-transportation a central part of his campaign rhetoric. He, at least, is bringing the issue to the public, not just telling people what they want to hear.

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Is not the terrible condition of the existing system one of the reasons we need to raise Billions?”

    Thank you EMR.

    When Phil R. goes on about limiting state budget increases to population increase plus inflation, deferred maintenance is one of the issues he conveniently ignores.

    We need to raise Billions, not even for improvement but just to prevent stagnation.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The land use – transportation link is an unproven hypothesis, at present. The single biggest finding in the Texas Transportation study was that there is not enough information to make more than vague generalizations. Of the proposed methods for improving our transportation woes, changing land use was mentioned dead last, probably because it is the most expensive and slowest method available.

    Until we have at least one instance where land use planning has resulted in lower cost of transit, shorter transit times, less congestion, and lower living costs, talking about the land use-transportation connection is all we can do.

    As far as I can determine, the Fundamental Change you keep talking about amounts to substituting one set of land use restrictions for another. This is no way to promote a level playing field and a free market for the housing catastrophe we now have.

    We have at least three major initiatives in development which are ripe for a major study of this issue, which we are going to let go by. Then, when we don’t get the results expected, someone will step up and denounce the planners as “clueless” and the plan doomed to fail from the beginning due to dozens of new factors which we claim in hindsight were foreseen all along.

    I don’t deny there is a connection between land use and transportation: we just have not a clue as to what it is, and no way to measure the confluence of factors to begin with and no way to agree on the desired values if we did.

    Until we have at least one instance where land use planning has resulted in lower cost of transit, shorter transit times, less congestion, lower living costs, and higher standard of living, then talking about the land use-transportation connection is all we can do.

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