The Suburb that Ate Virginia

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when most of the region we call “Northern Virginia” was like the rest of Virginia. Once upon a time, Fairfax County was known for its dairy farms. Once upon a time, people referred to the Rest of Virginia as “south of the Occoquan.” Today, the Washington metro area has leap-frogged past the Occoquan — and even past the Rappahannock.

Now we can contemplate the time when the Washington metro area subsumes the Richmond region. In an op-ed piece published today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Robert Land and Chris Nelson, co-directors of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, suggest that the 2010 Census could find, based on commuting patterns, that the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan statistical area qualifies as the Washington-Baltimore-Richmond MSA. They write:

With growth in the booming Washington region surging south to Richmond, it appears that D.C. may soon have a new metropolitan partner. Consider recent growth trends in Carolina [County], about halfway between D.C. and Richmond. In 2000, a quarter of its workers commuted north to the Washington region while a slightly larger percentage headed south to the Richmond metropolitan area. According to the Census, if metropolitan areas share a significant proportion of workers, they may form a combined metro area.

Land and Nelson say that this emerging “megalopolis,” which they refer to as the “Chesapeake metropolitan area,” now contains 10 million people and could surpass 15 million by 2040.

Egads. I grew up in northwestern Washington, D.C. After graduating from the University of Virginia, though, I never had the slightest temptation to go back. Settling in Richmond, where I’ve lived for 20 years now, I always considered Washington as a psychologically distant universe. But those days are over, it appears. It looks like Washington has caught up with me.

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74 responses to “The Suburb that Ate Virginia”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    When localities along I-95 take actions such as what Prince William Counties and others have
    done, as well as Loudoun County to the west of Washington DC, families looking for homes who
    work in the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area are forced to move further out as they
    have been doing in King George and Caroline counties, Culpeper, Front Royal, Winchester and
    the panhandle of West Virginia. Job growth, low unemployment, attracting new residents is the
    driving force behind this trends. Virginia will never get a handle on our growth management
    and transportation issues until the state plays a greater role in land use planning and creates
    a State Planning Department, which we had 30 years ago. The miserable failure about the current
    debate is it is politics at its worst without any solutions for our problems. The state needs
    to convene a group of state, local officials, business and civic leaders, enviornmental and
    smart growth adovactes to tackle this problem. A number of western states have pursued such a
    strategy. Part of what we need to do is use state resources to create new housing opportunities
    in our cities and older suburbs.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Wait… Wait… what about all of the growth that occurred BEFORE Prince William and Loudoun … REACTED?

    I find revisionist history fascinating…. so… it’s BECAUSE Prince William took their action that we’ve had all of this growth….!!!!!

    and so now… we need to convene a “friendly” group of stakeholders to figure out what we already have done wrong.

    I DO agree that the price of housing is central but one does also have to ask where the heck all those folks who want housing are coming from to start with AND what are the localities doing to accommodate them.

    Virginia is BLESSED with Fed Jobs, Ports, a diverse economy in Richmond, and major University towns that spawn jobs related to research.

    But I feel like, what we are doing – elementally – is that we are not charging appropriate and fair locational costs for folks who then buy a BIGGER, more expensive house by choosing to drive 50 miles or further.

    This is cast as an “affordability” issue – the premise that folks that are driving 50 miles simply could not afford a place to live in NoVa.

    This is not true for most. They’re driving for “more home” – and they’re doing it by paying a ridiculously low cost for utilizing very expensive highway infrastructure without paying for what it actually costs to provide, maintain, upgrade and improve that infrastructure. That 50 mile trip costs them on average about a buck and a half.

    Most folks ALSO fundamentally know and understand this because they support paying for improved infrastructure – as long as it does not go to Richmond to disappear into VDOT’s headquarters. This is what the failed 2002 referenda was all about.

    The public favors TOLLS by about 60%. They favor local transportation referenda in almost every case except for Stafford – where heavy suspicion that the money would be spent on developer-friendly upgrades of rural roads killed it. A referenda in NoVa in the same election passed by an 80% margin.

    But unfortunately this is not the answer that the development community wants. Instead they want an opportunity to manipulate the dialogue to produce stampede advocacy for higher statewide taxes and to refresh VDOT to go about building roads the way the development community prefers them to.

    I think people are onto this. Not all of them – but enough – to cause some changes.

  3. “Virginia will never get a handle on our growth management and transportation issues until the state plays a greater role in land use planning and creates a State Planning Department, which we had 30 years ago.”

    All the state needs to do is get out of the LOCAL road building business. Let localities build new LOCAL roads and make DEVELOPERS pay for the roads in some capacity. The state should be responsible for interstate highways and other major routes and that’s it.

    As far as the “megalopolis”… this point, it’s almost like, “duh, no kidding, dude.”

    Move some of the jobs out of NOVA & Richmond to places like King George, Caroline counties, Culpeper, Front Royal, Winchester and the panhandle of West Virginia and many of our transportation problems would be greatly reduced…..not solved but significantly reduced.

  4. TA DA!

    Somebody gets it.

    Unfortunately, it isn’t Larry. Suppose you charged all those commuters their full allocated cost of using the highway, and no more. What do you think would happen?

    First of all, Metro would shut down for lack of funding.

    Some of those people would pay the hihger cost and continue to commute. Some would find or create jobs locally. Some would move in closer nad this would cause the price of housing there to escalate more.

    As a result more people would choose to move farther out and convert their costs to a better home and less time in it. Even if they had to pay more to support the roads.

    The megalopolis would expand, and with it the need for roads. Metro, meanwhile would be left far in the interior dust, stuck in history, and underfunded.

    Once the megalopolis expands to include all of us, then who do you suppose the THEY will be in your argument? THEY will be US, and WE will be paying a lot more for the roads we should have built thirty years ago.

    But, you can build twenty modest roads in Carline county for the cost of one super road in Fairfax.

    Even if your argument is correct, and evenif it works, the result is the same. Get over it.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m 100% on board with gold_h20 on number 2 – local road building – with a small question about who pays for subdivision maintenance (and I presume you’d agree that local homeowners pick up that cost).

    and I’m on board with VDOT bearing responsibility for statewide interstates – AND I think that VDOT should get the interstate gas tax for maintenance and that new roads be constructed by PPTA.

    But on the issue of State-directed planning – I need more info.

    Are you advocating dropping Dillon and adopting Home Rule?

    And what is your thinking on Regional planning for both land-use and transportation?

    What would you think about a hierarchy where at the State level – they set policy and standards with regard to growth and then let planning districts and MPOs carry out implementation?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The growth we have had in some communities has led them to take actions to force growth
    out of their counties into other cities and counties further out. The actions by young
    families to move further out is not solely to get the biggest house, but one they can
    afford. The disconnect between some of the writers on this blog and the real world out
    here is beyond belief. Are you guys going block all of the traffic moving up and down
    the East Coast along I-95 from using our highways? What are you going to do with visitors
    who want to travel into Virginia? How about businesses wanting to move goods in and out
    of our ports? There is no sense of civic and social responsibility on this blog.

  7. Another layer of state government in the form of a state planning department is not the answer. It would make a bad situation even worse.

    I think we have a good template in place as far as regional planning goes in the form of our Commonwealth Transportation Board. The problem with the CTB in its current form is that it is made up of people who have no background in planning, engineering, etc.

    Also, there are also some serious questions when it comes to which localities are part of which districts, etc. For example, Winchester is part of the Staunton planning district…..why? No one in Winchester commutes south to get to work. FYI…here is a map of the districts, Anyway, that’s another topic.

    I think we need to give the CTB more authority to develop and build region-wide transportation systems, designed by people on the CTB who have a working knowledge of planning, design, engineering, etc. Each regional CTB should be funded by the localities that make up that district and the money that it raises should be spent in that district.

    Each CTB should then have underlings who represent the CTB at each and every local planning department meeting, BOS meetings, etc. In other words, the CTB needs to be involved from the very beginning of the process. As it stands now a person from VDOT is the one who “makes comments” at board meetings, etc.…… your next BOS meeting on TV and see who adds input on the next major road project. It’s not the CTB, it’s a VDOT person.

    And, to add insult to injury, VDOT doesn’t technically have the power to kill a project. But the CTB does. If a project is not on the CTB’s “plan” then it doesn’t get funded.

    “Are you advocating dropping Dillon and adopting Home Rule?”

    As far as local transportation projects are concerned, yes. It’s obvious in places that have the worst transportation problems that the state is not coming to the rescue. The only alternative is for localities to keep the money that would otherwise be sent to Richmond and spend it as they see fit. However, localities need to raise and share revenue on a region-wide basis (see comments above on the CTB).

    The problem in Richmond is that they horde all of the money and spend it where they see fit….for the past 30 years that has been education and healthcare, not transportation. And from what I have been reading I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  8. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Washington, DC is New Rome. Until America chooses not to lead as the world’s Uber SuperPower and surrender or are defeated. The former may come after any election from 08 on. The latter will take a few decades at least, if it happens.

    The crescent from DC to Richmond to Va Beach will fill up with people. Just a matter of time.

  9. I don’t know if I would go that far, but the movement is in that direction.

    So, where is the plan? Another 2 million people in 33 available transit oreinted development sites?

    I don’t think so.

    Another 500,000 jobs in Arlington? What, are we nuts?

    How about if we actually plan to expand every village town and smaller city by 10 to 20%, and spend the money to do it?

    What are we doing instead?

    Slamming the door and locking it, or else making it a toll gate. the whole idea is utterly stupid and preposterous.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    I have the answer to Virginia’s problems that would satisfy the writers for this blog:

    -Virginians who have children must leave the state to reduce our population growth;
    -Virginians should be limited to one car per household;
    -Virginia businesses should no longer expand here, but relocate;
    -Virginia should no longer welcome tourists and new businesses;
    -and Virginia should establish border crossings to stop out of state traffic from using
    our roads.

    That’s a plan you guys could really support. Merry Christmas !!!!!!!

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m not the “anonymous”–but just call me “Anon.” I’m writing to emphatically agree with Mr. Bowden about DC being New Rome. Best analogy.

    I don’t like agreeing with Mr. Bowden because he represesnts views that I find of concern.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think the logic being used here with respect to responses to growth and transportation is ahem … not particularly cogent.

    No one is talking about keeping people from moving to Virginia or even traveling through it.

    And I’ll bet no one in this blog believes that when Dominion Power raises it rates that they are going to force people to move or to not being to afford to watch TV … etc. When their costs go up – YOUR costs go up.

    And I’ll bet no one in this blog believes that New Jersey and more than a dozen other states with TOLL roads chase significant numbers of prospective residents and/or travelers out of their states.

    This is a simple equation folks.

    If you think you need/want more roads – you have to pay for them.

    If you want/need more roads to handle rush hour traffic – you’re going to have to pay even more to maximize the size of the infrastructure to handle maximum loads – exactly like Dominion Power has to.

    The reality is that the amount of money currently generated by the existing gas tax – barely covers the cost of maintaining the existing infrastructure and, in fact, is projected to fall below costs by 2010 or so.

    By that date, if nothing is done, VDOT will have virtually NO money for new roads.

    If you want to commute 50 miles to work – and you’re joined by a gazillion other folks – the road you are using is going to have to be upgraded – and I’d ask where folks think that money will come from?

    This discussion is not about telling people they cannot live here – it’s about how to upgrade the infrastructure they use to accommodate them. Absolutely no one is advocating telling people they cannot use the road.

    This problem did not appear overnight. Existing residents did not start out 20 years ago being opposed to more growth and development;

    They have acquired that attitude as a result of new growth and no one taking responsibility for upgrading the infrastructure to accommodate the new growth.

    You can raise the gas tax but you cannot raise enough money that way to build what is needed. The higher the cost of gasoline (market + increased taxes) – the more people will buy more fuel efficient autos (and other strategies) – and over the longer run – net increases in gas tax revenue are not projected – but rather almost flat or even declining revenues. Bottom line – the higher the price – the less revenue collected.

    Gas Tax revenues in Virginia – actually DECLINED in the first quarter of 2006 – due to the influence of $3.00 a gallon gasoline. If you add a significant gas tax AND the price goes up also – and the price again exceeds $3.00 a gallon – there is every likelihood that the same result will occur.

    So – the question is how will money be raised for roads – and NOT advocating keeping people from using roads.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: At 3:49 PM, Gold_h2o said… (exerpts):

    I think we have a good template in place as far as regional planning goes in the form of our Commonwealth Transportation Board. The problem with the CTB in its current form is that it is made up of people who have no background in planning, engineering, etc.

    Also, there are also some serious questions when it comes to which localities are part of which districts, etc. For example, Winchester is part of the Staunton planning district…..why? No one in Winchester commutes south to get to work. FYI…here is a map of the districts, Anyway, that’s another topic.

    I think we need to give the CTB more authority to develop and build region-wide transportation systems, “

    Gold H2O – appreciate your responses –

    I agree with your assessment of CTB with regard to expertise but it’s worse than that; many on the CTB not only lack planning expertise but they are often directly involved in growth and development industries AND they are political appointees.

    So I disagree with that being a “good” template to replicate but you need to acquaint yourself with the concept of MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) who are, in fact, responsible for regional transportation planning – and often are aligned jurisdictionally with the Virginia Planning Districts.

    More important, MPOs, by Federal Law cannot maintain wish lists – every project on their build and planning lists must have an identified source of funding whereas CTB and VDOT have not and still do not follow that convention and the failure to do so has led to some serious financial problems for them and the state.

    Finally your comment about VDOT District Offices and their boundaries. JLARC alluded to this in their report and found that these boundaries were created by the 1922 Congressional Redistricting… and, as you say, have almost no connection with the demographic regions…

    For instance, the MPO regions do not match up with VDOT Regions… and the overlap leads to problems and turf battles.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Virginia needs a state planning department. Regional Planning District Commissions
    need to be combined to better meet our needs. They were created in 1968 prior to our
    rapid growth. We need planning vehicles in the state government, regionally and locally
    that deal with our growth patterns and the fact that when 10,000 new jobs are created in
    the inner suburbs then a certain % of the those jobs will be filled by workers who
    are commuting from the outer suburbs to those employment centers. The alignment of VDOT
    districts and CTB districts should be a part of that effort to make our system more relative
    to our needs.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Virginia already has Planning Districts (see below):

    * 2. Cumberland Plateau PDC
    * 3. Mount Rogers PDC (Bristol/Galax Area)
    * 4. New River Valley PDC (Radford Area)
    * 5. Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (Roanoke/Salem Area)
    * 6. Central Shenandoah PDC
    * 7. Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission
    * 8. Northern Virginia PDC
    * 9. Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission
    * 10. Thomas Jefferson PDC (Charlottesville Area)
    * 11. Region2000 Regional Comission (Lynchburg Area)
    * 12. West Piedmont PDC (Danville/Martinsville Area)
    * 13. Southside PDC
    * 14. Piedmont PDC
    * 15. Richmond Regional PDC
    * 16. RADCO (Fredericksburg Area)
    * 17. Northern Neck PDC
    * 18. Middle Peninsula PDC
    * 19. Crater PDC
    * 22. Accomack-Northampton PDC
    * 23. Hampton Roads PDC

    The purpose of Planning District Commissions, as set out in the Code of Virginia, Section 15.2-4207, is
    “…to encourage and facilitate local government cooperation and state-local cooperation in addressing on a regional basis problems of greater than local significance. The cooperation resulting from this chapter is intended to facilitate the recognition and analysis of regional opportunities and take account of regional influences in planning and implementing public policies and services.

    The planning district commission shall also promote the orderly and efficient development of the physical, social and economic elements of the district by planning, and encouraging and assisting localities to plan, for the future.”

    Virginia also has the following MPOs (that plan Regional transportation)

    Bristol Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Danville Metropolitan Planning,Organization
    Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Kingsport Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Lynchburg Transportation Planning Council
    Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Petersburg – Tri-Cities Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Richmond Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Roanoke Valley Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Washington, D.C.-MD-VA – National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB)

    I know that in Fredericksburg – that there is not a perfect match between the MPO and the PD and not sure about the rest of the state but the process for determining the boundaries of an MPO are different than those used to determine the boundaries of the PDs.

    Not having them match up – I suspect is not a good thing… so that could be changed.

    If someone REALLY wanted to get ambitious – VDOT District Offices could be aligned with MPOs and PDs.

    Then you’d have unified planning functionality and the opportunity to organize hierarchically with a Statewide Planning Agency –

    A statewide Planning Agency – independent of VDOT/CTB would be even more of a disaster in my view than what we have now. If the state wants to better plan land-use and transportation – then the two activities at the state level need to be a coordinated function under one Head or else the two are going to be at different paths…

  16. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, You make a really good point. We have a number of regional planning agencies already. I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be a really good idea to make the PDCs, the MPOs and the VDOT district offices all align with one another. Indeed, I would make the case that MPOs should be merged into the PDCs where they aren’t already. And there should be formal organizational ties between the PDCs and the VDOT district offices. For instance, the VDOT regional manager could serve on the local PDC board. They could institute formal information-sharing arrangements. The PDCs could rely upon VDOT for traffic data and impact analysis, while VDOT relies upon the PDCs for data relating to comprehensive plans, population, economic indicators.

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually JLARC was ahead of us:

    * Existing VDOT districts are based on 1922
    Congressional districts and are antiquated and

    * With one exception, these 80-year-old districts
    bear no relation to transportation corridors or
    regional transportation entities such as
    metropolitan planning organizations

    * The only district based on regional transportation
    is the Northern Virginia district, which was created
    in 1984 and has the same boundary as the MPO


    The General Assembly may wish to consider
    establishing seven funding regions based on
    MPOs and major transportation corridors and
    require that regional system construction funds be
    allocated among the regions instead of among the
    existing VDOT districts. page 38

    So what the heck is Mr. Howell or Mr. Kaine doing when both of them seem to choose to ignore this common-sense suggestion and instead polarize along tax-notax lines?

    That’s what is disappointing to me. I was expecting Kaine after his election – to follow up with legislative proposals to implement some of the recommendations.

    When he didn’t do it… I thought he left open the gate for Howell and company to demonstrate that their ideas were more than just no-tax…

    so .. both sides.. apparently are satisfied with the debate being perceived by the public as tax/no tax. A shame.

    or worse… it could be that neither of them have any intention at attempting real reform for fear of shaking up the establishment…

    What bad is when Virginia’s own version of the CBO does multiple studies and issues dozens of well-conceived recommendations – and VDOT, the CTB, the House and the Senate – ignore them….


  18. nova_middle_man Avatar

    I agree we need to have the different groups talking to one another. When Prince William county decides to build a road and the rate of cars flowing onto an interstate increases the impact needs to be studied across the region.

    The problem with these boards is competing priorities. I know Northern Virginia best. The inner burbs want more transit money and the outer burbs want more road money.

    So you end up with a bigger faucet coming into the inner burbs who don’t updgrade the roads since they rely on transit for their jurisdiction. All of the existing bottle necks become worse. Despair and gnashing of teeth but there is a solution. All together now more housing closer in more business farther out but the exact opposite is happening. Can’t really blame the localities they want more tax money from business and dont want expensive new residents blah blah been said before moving on.

    For people who wish to live where they want the HOT Lane concept to the rescue. Exciting because traffic continues to flow. So drivers are given a choice, when they approach the inner burbs. Park and pay for transit or stay on the road and pay to flow or crawl for free or carpool and win. But the question still remains who pays for what

    Who should pay to expand local and connector roads
    (The local jurisdictions)

    Who should pay to expand the Interstate beyond the HOT lane endpoint or upgrade interchanges consequence of connector roads dumping more cars onto an interstate and general growth
    (The state since it is an Interstate or the country which caused the needed upgrade or maybe both)

    Who should pay to expand transit (The state since it is a people mover interstate but what about the local residents who use it and other localities are paying for road expansion. So is Metro an interstate and bus lines local roads as a compromise?)

    Who should pay for the HOT lane (The state since it is an interstate or the county or wait the people pay)

    Inconsistenties abound either Everyone pays for everything or we continue with the current formulas and that is the connundrum we face

    The congestion penalty hurts because you penalize people who live closer in by having them pay the same price as someone who lives farther out or do we really want to draw a line in the sand and say from here on out we shall toll everything based on actual cost

    That is the true question… are people really willing to pay 10-15 bucks either in tolls or actual transit cost fees to get to work or are people willing to pay more taxes/bonds/fees whatever you want to call it to continue the current model of funding transportation. The polls say toll me.

    P.S. yes all of these reforms are needed and smart spending/development are key components also but the fact is people are going to have to pay more to move.

    And once the tolls come online will people say the heck with it I am voting with my feet and moving. In NOVA land its going to be $10-$15 each way. Ah a true free market.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    NoVA MM – Good thoughts & analysis. I also suspect that, with higher taxes in the Fairfax County and inward-communities and high tolls or even substantially higher gas/alternative fuel taxes, we will see more businesses begin to locate operations outside these communities. Fairfax County may become more dense than it is, but there are still many people who won’t want to live there or cannot afford to do so. Businesses will begin (if they have not already done so) to locate where many workers live and where costs and taxes are lower.

    Obviously, this phenomenon will not turn Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria into ghost towns, but Ray Hyde may well see his “more places” begin to develop.

  20. Larry seems to be immune to the facts about fuel taxes, so here is a little food for thought.

    These clearly show that other states and the nation as a whole don’t seem to be having the problem Larry describes.

    Actually, I hope he is right: we should burn less fuel. If we ever do that, then we can adjust the gas tax upward until it meets our needs.

    The fuel tax is simple, it is in place, it accounts for weight as well as miles driven, and it rewards those with more economical vehicles. What is not to like?

    It is too bad our legislators have neither the brains nor cojones to understand and implement this.

    It doesn’t require a whole new infrastructe, and it applies universally, which tolls never will. Tolls are just another way to attempt to tax the other guy and cherry pick the routes that are most in demand: in other words it is another way to suck more money out of NOVA.

    The first file shows the Ohio experience with revenues and rate increases to be quite different from what Larry describes.

    In Texas the fuel tax is the largest source of revenue except for sales tax.

    In North Carolina drivers continued to travel, even at higher fuel prices.

    The census file shows gas taxes by quarter for the last few years, with the latest quarter being the highest.

    Larry, if the fuel tax was per dollar instead of per gallon, would revenues have still gone down with increasing gas prices?

  21. nova_middle_man Avatar

    I enjoy this blog and respect you Ray along with all of the other contributors/commenters but

    Advocating a gas tax is political suicide. I live in a pretty blue area and people are hesitant to mention it. This next link is a great resource

    Scroll down to mid page
    Public Opinion Survey on Transportation Issues
    then click on Public Opinion Survey Final Report

    The whole report is a good overview about what the majority of us crazy NoVA people think 🙂
    Pg 40 on is particularly good
    I will just mention a few quick hits.

    “When asked a general question, Northern Virginians indicated that they place a much
    higher priority on public transportation than on roads and highways. Nearly threequarters
    said that public transportation is their first or second transportation priority,
    while only about half named roads and highways. Even more striking is the fact that
    nearly twice as many Northern Virginians named public transportation (50%) as roads
    and highways as their top priority.”

    “About seven in ten Northern Virginia residents support highway tolls used for either
    highways or public transportation. This support is consistent in the core, inner and outer
    suburbs, and there are no significant differences by jurisdiction.”

    The gas tax issue starts on page 66

    “When the taxes are framed in realistic dollar amounts, Northern Virginia residents clearly
    favor an increase in the sales tax over increases in either the income tax or the gas tax.
    Nearly half said that a sales tax increase is the most acceptable alternative, compared to
    less than one-quarter for either the income tax or the gas tax.”

    “Perhaps because they are better served by transit and need to drive less, Alexandria,
    Arlington and Falls Church residents are more likely to choose the gas tax and,
    commensurately, less likely to choose the sales tax than are residents of Prince William
    County, Manassas and Manassas Park. Residents of all of the outer suburbs are unlikely
    to choose the gas tax.”

    “Seven in ten Northern Virginia residents said they would vote for state bonds to pay for
    all types of transportation improvements, and this support is consistent across all

    I will close with a classic NoVA syndrome. Wanting it all but not being willing to pay. As I said above the HOT lanes would cost about 10-15 bucks

    “Fifty-six percent of the Northern Virginia residents surveyed favor HOT lanes, and
    another three percent indicated that they might favor them under some (unspecified)
    circumstances. Just over one-third are opposed.”


    “Only a little more than one-quarter of Northern Virginia residents said they would be
    unwilling to pay anything to use a HOT lane. Seventy-three percent said they would pay
    at least one dollar and half said they would pay at least two dollars. On average,
    residents are willing to pay $2.47. There are no significant differences by corridor used.”

    I still think HOT lanes are a great idea.

    So there you have it more info than any sane person could ever want on NoVA. Such split personalities pro-transit and pro-road, pro gas tax vs pro sales tax, core vs inner vs outer burbs, bonds and tolls. It makes the greater NoVA area a good test study because if all of these competing interests can be addressed it can be used as a starting point for discussions across the state and some lessons learned for developing areas.

    Closing here is a audio clip from the vice-chairman of the study Mr Zimmerman (D) Arlington and Marty Nohe (R) Prince William rep as well taken before the Transportation special session.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    The problem with the various planning groups in Virginia,
    Planning District Commissions, MPO’s, etc. is they do not
    provide the linkage we need to tackle our problems. I want
    to see if these thoughts help give a different view of this

    -Hampton Roads has a PDC for that metropolitan area, but
    Northern Virginia does not;

    -we have no planning group looking at the I-95 corridor land
    use and transportation needs from Richmond to Washington, DC,
    nor do we have a group working on land use and transportation
    plans for the I-64 and Rt. 460 corridors from the Richmond
    area to Hampton Roads;

    -Virginia has a history of one community making land use
    decisions that have negative impacts adjoining communities
    …. a state planning department should play a role in putting
    an end to such practice …. Fredericksburg’s Central Park and
    Celebrate Virginia creates revenue for that city, but many of
    the workers live in surrounding communities ….. Fairfax
    County’s massive office and industrial parks do the same for
    that community while the work force live in adjoining cities
    and counties …

    -in the West, communities such as Denver, Salt Lake City,
    Sacramento and Portland have better land use concepts than we
    do tied to transportation improvements ….

    -a state planning department working with VDOT could produce
    plans about how we can spend our transportation funds for projects
    to encourage new growth to rebuild our cities and older suburban
    areas ….as is happening along the route of the planned light
    rail system in Norfolk ….

    I hope Mr. Gross will give these thoughts some consideration.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear gold h2o:

    Get real about local governments taking over road
    building from the state. There is no way that such
    communities as Highland, Richmond and Wise counties
    are up to that task that requires engineers, contract
    administrators and projects managers. Such a system
    would create different quality standards for our road
    system that you find in some other states.

    VDOT is a whipping boy by the General Assembly (Speaker
    William J. Howell and others), local governments, smart
    activisits likes the writers on this blog and others who
    like to play the blame game.

    VDOT deals with a system that allows local governments to
    make zoning decisions that damages our transportation system
    and passes on the expense of resolving their problems to the
    taxpayers of the state.

    VDOT struggles with a funding program that has not been
    updated in 20 years, thus creating a situation that our
    budget resources are going more and more to road maintenance
    projects and funds are not available to solve such problems
    as the awful traffic jams on Rt. 1 in Falmouth near the law
    office of Speaker Howell.

    We need a state planning department that could work with VDOT
    to clean up this mess. We need a state group of business,
    civic, cultural, education and environmental leaders willing to
    come togther to help us create plan to meet our needs in the
    21th century and funds to support such a program.

    The complaining by you, Mr. Gross and Mr. Bacon and others is
    doing little to help us find solutions to these problems.

    A Civic Minded Virginia Resident

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    First – EXCELLENT Commentary by nova_middle_man …. Thank You!!

    With respect to the gas tax – EVEN if it had good future prospects to be sustainable it is political suicide as pointed out.

    Ray is not only looking in the rear-view mirror – he’s looking at a distorted mirror – at something that “used to be” but will not be in the future;

    State legislators have been briefed on this and know the facts also but even if there were good prospects for the gas tax – the reality is that it is not supported by most drivers, not supported by most politicians, not supported even by VDOT because.

    It’s not a question of cajones – it’s a question of dealing with realities vice wishful thinking.

  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: lack of unified/integrated regional planning.

    we HAVE the planning groups – but I agree there is a failure to plan at scopes larger than individual jurisdictions who also, as pointed out, actually COMPETE against their neighbors for roads AND development….

    I tend to think that if the state will not enact the modest recommendations by JLARC – that climbing a bigger hill is even less likely but would agree that pushing the envelope is important.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Get real about local governments taking over road
    building from the state.”

    … Get Coffee … long response!

    VDOT can still design,build, maintain but localities should pay especially if they are approving new development.
    We could do roads like we do schools. A minimum standard amount guaranteed by the State – and everything beyond that supplemented by the locality.

    re: “blame game” – dozens of suggestions to improve … ignored….

    re: “VDOT deals with a system that allows local governments to
    make zoning decisions that damages our transportation system
    and passes on the expense of resolving their problems to the
    taxpayers of the state.”

    so you’re RIGHT ON! Are you BLAMING someone? Are you suggesting something specific to address this?

    re: “VDOT struggles with a funding program that has not been
    updated in 20 years, thus creating a situation that our
    budget resources are going more and more to road maintenance
    projects and funds are not available to solve such problems
    as the awful traffic jams on Rt. 1 in Falmouth near the law
    office of Speaker Howell.”

    It’s as much about priorities as it is about funding.

    How do you explain that VDOT spent 30 million dollars to improve an intersection about 3 miles from Falmouth – INSTEAD of Falmouth? WHY did the intersection with 1/2 the traffic count get built FIRST?

    Anon – this is the problem. You have limited money – never enough – how do you Prioritize?
    If you don’t Prioritize and Rank using an objective standard – then why would you give them more money to NOT spend on the most urgent projects?

    re: “We need a state planning department that could work with VDOT
    to clean up this mess.”

    You already HAVE local planning organizations in the Fredeicksburg Area – FAMPO and RADCO and VDOT operates like it is the only one that matters. They routinely operate independently and as if they are the sole arbiters of transportation priorities in the area.

    You say “work with VDOT”. What do you mean by that? Non-VDOT organizations have tried for YEARS to “work with VDOT” and guess what – It’s VDOT that won’t work with them so why do you think yet another group would work better?

    The complaining by you, Mr. Gross and Mr. Bacon and others is
    doing little to help us find solutions to these problems.

    Many, many suggestions on how to improve including simple ones like implementing JLARC and the Virginia Office of Public Accounting recommendations – some of which are FOUR years old.

    VDOT is essentially an old-dog road building organization that is struggling to deal with issues beyond roads – and beyond their organic expertise in some respects. Mobility, multi-modal approaches to moving PEOPLE, congestion relief, simple things like timing lights BEFORE the public is at their throats… looking for and fixing bottlenecks… etc.

    They operate independently of Transit and Rail – and apparently are fine with this idea… in a time when we cannot afford to view transportation as little more than building new roads.

    When you have an agency like VDOT that puts together 6yr Financial Plans that promise almost TWICE as many projects as they have funds for – this is NOT a funding issue – this is an issue about financial responsibility and how much trust you have in ANY state-level organization that cannot govern it’s own financial resources in a responsible way. Why in the world would you want to give them MORE money if they are reluctant and slow to implement the State Accounting office recommendations to get their accounting practices under control?

    I actually agree with the Whipping Boy analogy. But they mostly deserve it though there IS some “piling on”.

    And I think you miss the most important aspect of the VDOT issue and that is that they have LOST the public trust in them. People simply don’t trust them to spend money wisely on projects ranked and prioritized by an objective process.

    So a good question is why others need to “work with VDOT”. Could you explain some specifics about things that VDOT could use from external folks to improve the process.

    I do not accept your assessment that I have complained about them without offering specifics about what needs to be done to improve. Most every post that I have identifies what I think is a problem – and a way to address that problem – not just my own ideas – but ideas suggested by legitimate and credentialed organizations – often ignored.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    VDOT has tried a number of times to resolve the problems on
    Rt. 1 at Falmouth, only to be met with stiff public opposition
    that has led to the problem getting only worst. Speaker Howell,
    whose office is near that problem, never, never played a role in
    trying to get a constructive solution to that mess. VDOT then
    took the funds allocated for those improvements and used that
    money to provide road improvements in the Northern Neck.
    The same thing happend in the Fredericksburg area when VDOT
    sought to get the Outer Connector built which local governments
    in the area at one point endorsed and you and others rose up in
    opposition to fight it. Funds from that project have since been
    spent to upgrade a causeway, two bridges and a highway in West

    You are part of a political culture in the state, along with Mr.
    Bacon and Speaker Howell, that have over the years played a role
    in creating the problems we have. VDOT has no role in land use
    decisions. It does not control the funding provided by the General
    Assembly. The agency has no control over political opposition that
    kills projects such as improvements in Falmouth and the Outer Connector.

    I think you and others need to take inventory relative to your roles in
    these matters ….. none of you are friends of the traveling public nor
    young families trying to find affordable housing …. all of those folks
    are victims in this process …

    A Civic Minded Virginian

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “VDOT then took the funds allocated for those improvements and used that
    money to provide road improvements in the Northern Neck.”

    Why would VDOT do this if there were OTHER projects in the Fredericksburg Area that needed funding?

    and why would you support a process where VDOT could DIVERT a localities funding in the first place?

    And you’re wrong about opposition. Opposition comes from arrogance and and unwillingness to pay attention to what the public wants and does not want – and to continue to interact and respond to the public as opposed to dictating to them and to local officials.

    The victims in this process are the traveling public AND taxpayers who have been ignored by an agency funded by their tax dollars.

    VDOT acts like they are not accountable to anyone.. with respect to how they operate.

    and again – answer the question – Why would VDOT .. DIVERT local funds to other jurisdictions when there were other projects needing funding and not opposed -but supported by the public?

    You can take your “anon” potshots… but if you don’t answer the questions.. you’re demonstrating to me that you, in fact, operate like VDOT… and probably are either a VDOT employee or a surrogate…

    Yourself, like VDOT – don’t seem to want a dialogue – but rather a forum to spout propaganda and then run and hide.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Mr. Gross:

    Funds are alocated to districts. The Fredericksburg region
    has an MPO required by federal law to plan regional highway

    Funds will be allocated from one community to another when
    VDOT is unable to get an area like Fredericksburg to agree
    on needed improvements, thus the Northern Neck and West Point
    benefit because of the problems in your community, often caused
    by activists such as yourself who opposed needed projects, while
    those communities support the required improvements to solve
    their problems.

    I do not work for VDOT.

    I am quite knowledgeable about our state government, transportation
    system and land use issues.

    You are a part of why we can’t find solutions to our complex problems.

    Bashing VDOT and taking shots at persons such as myself as you did in
    your last note to often reflects the tone of these discussions in such
    areas as Fredericksburg that have caused that community to have some of
    the worst traffic jams in Virginia and their portion of I-95 is now one
    of the most congested along the East Coast.

    Why is it that Williamsburg can enjoy the benefits of Rt. 199 (their
    version of the Outer Connector)or the Richmond area can have the same
    benefits from Rt. 288 and I-295, similar highways, but your home has
    to struggle with clogged highways and roads because the likes of you
    oppose such projects?

    Mr. Gross, again I would say to you, your are no friend of young
    families trying to find affordable housing nor the traveling public.

    A Civic Minded Virginian

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    I’m fine with telling folks who I am and what I stand for. Too bad you’ve decided to stay in hiding…

    and once again you evade discussion on the simple merits.

    Each locality has a list of projects they want built and they have allocated funding for those projects.

    They never have enough funding for ALL of them at one time so they can and do decide on the order they want them built.

    If one project does not get built – for whatever reason – you drop down to the next project.

    What you are saying is that if for some reason, one project does not get built – then VDOT will reallocate that localities allocation to another jurisdiction.

    What VDOT does – is engage in blackmail – by threatening localities with this – if they do not support VDOT’s priorities – no matter what the MPO priorities are. They do the same thing in other areas like Charlottesville.

    Explain to me and other readers the rationale behind this. I want to hear from you on this issue.

    Do you support VDOT operating in this manner?

    Also explain to everyone else here where the money was to build the OC. There was NO MONEY.

    The OC was put into the 6yr plan AFTER a dozen other projects already were there – and VDOT chose to allocate very limited funds to the OC even though the project was not approved by Federal Highway for construction.

    So you had other projects, already approved and supported by citizens that VDOT diverted funds from to a project that was not approved for construction.

    So again, explain to me and others here if you support this method of VDOT operation.

    You complain about opposition then you ignore what causes the opposition and more important you pretend that VDOT had the money to build the OC – and they never did – nor did they have approval – no matter the opposition.

    VDOT wanted to ram something that they did not have funding nor approval for down the throats of a majority of people who wanted other desperately-needed projects to be built FIRST while the approval process played out for the OC.

    Instead – VDOT chose to NOT build the other projects and to essentially blackmail folks by threatening to send local money to other localities.

    And I want to remind you again – these are State EMPLOYEEs that essentially threaten public officials with doing things their way or else. You chose to NOT oppose this kind of thing – right?

  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    On the merits of the OC in Fredericksburg – a beltway proposal.

    VDOT did an Environmental Study.

    Six alternatives were examined.

    The only alternative that did not damage Civil War Battlefields AND also happened to be the BEST in terms of congestion relief – VDOT would not support.

    And that option was CD lanes along I-95 – which is essentially the current HOT lane proposal that went forward anyhow.

    The simple reality was that VDOT wanted a beltway. They did not have the money. They chose to siphon off what little money that existed – diverting it from other projects and then Schucet showed up – found out that they had twice as many projects in their six year plan as they had money for – and forced them to dump half of them.

    They had absolutely no reasonable chance of ever building the road because of a lack of finances.

    Civic-minded anon says that all of this happened because of “opposition” preferring to ignore the realities.

    Civic-minded also fails to put on the table – his suggestions on how to go forward – including a viable plan for building the OC that he supports. Get in the game Civic-minded… use your brain for something besides powering your gums. 🙂

    Since he will not – I will.

    Propose a PPTA toll road. Do the analysis and find out how much the toll will cost and then promote it to the traveling public – and if civic-minded is “right” – the project will go forward and steamroll the opposition because the public wants it.

    Methinks Civic-minded is not about solutions.. but I give him credit.. he’s good at blather.

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Mr. Gross:

    Personal snipes does little to add to our discussions about
    what we need to do to better handle our growth and transportation
    issues. With this, I will say go day and have a great holiday

    A Civic and Civil Minded Virginian

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Mr. Gross:

    Personal snipes do little to add to our discussions
    about what we need to do to better handle our growth
    and transportation issues.

    With this corrected copy of this note (my typing is
    not as good as should be), I will say good day and have
    a great holiday season.

    A Civic and Civil Minded Virginian

  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Good Holidays Civic-minded.

    all kidding aside – put something on the table…civic-mined – out of hundreds of projects statewide – opposition stopped very, very few. It is a lack of money that has stopped most of them.

    How would you fix this?

    Ray has suggested the gas tax… let’s take a look…

    VDOTs revenues from the gas tax are about 700 million dollars – which is about 40% of their budget.
    FYI – another 40% comes from the Statewide 1/2% sales tax.

    The gas tax is 17.5 cents. Let’s divide 700 million by 17.5 to see how much one penny of gas tax generates
    in revenue. 700,000,000/17.5 = 40 million

    let’s just pick a number Ray and other advocates of raising the gas tax – might think would be adequate/sufficient/etc.

    if we want 500 million more a year – that would be 12.5 cents increase in the gas tax.
    or you could double the 17.5 cents to get another 700 million a year (that will buy another Springfield)
    or if you wanted a billion a year… 25 cents increase on the tax rate.

    political suicide – aside –
    is this the kind of money that folks think needs to be raised to make a dent in the 100 billion backlog?

    Let’s say you got the Billion per year. How much would NoVa and HR get? How much would the rest of the state get?

    Let’s think BIG … and say that NoVa would get … 400 million.. HR 400 million and the rest of the state 200 million.

    The 18 miles Inter County Connector is estimated to cost 3 Billion dollars – that’s about 150 million a mile.

    So… 400 million would buy what … maybe 3 miles of interstate – assuming the costs would be similiar to those of the ICC.

    Where have I gone wrong on my calculations?

    It seems hard to believe that a 25 cent increase in the gas tax would pm;u buy about 3 miles of new interstate in NoVa or HR … so where have I erred?

  35. I agree it is political suicide, at present.

    I don’t agree that it is not fair and workable, now and in the future.

    I’m certain that tolls will be more expensive to collect, and more localized. More localized is good in some cases and bad in others, but any way you slice it, it will lead to even more bickering than we have now. And less useful money to spend.

    The fact that it is political suiced simply shows how stupid the electorate is and what miserable leaders we have elected.

    We would rather spend ten dollars so we can get over on the other guy by two dollars, rather than split the real costs and pay five dollars each.

    Today an office mate was complaining about a new policy in his apartment. I used to be rent including utilities, but now they are separate bills. The building doesn’tt have individual metering, so management takes th total bill and allocates it by the square foot.

    My friend thought this was terribly unfair, because he lives alone while others have children in smaller apartments, and presumably they use more electricity.

    But, I pointed out, management was doing the same thing before, and simply adding the rent and electricity amounts together.

    You would have thought I had slapped him in the face, when the truth sunk in.

    He blustered, “Yes, but they are only doing it to make the rent look cheaper.”

    And also to make you all collectively aware of the expense, I added.

    It seems to me this is a perfect analogy to Larry’s argument. The building could put in meters and toll everybody, but it is probably cheaper to tear the building down and start over, because things weren’t designed that way.

    There probably isn’t a single circuit goeing to each apartment to hang a meter on. Then you have to read the meters, calculate and send the bills, and collect the money.

    It’s cheaper for all involved just to average the costs, even if it isn’t strictly fair.


    The difference is, that in the apartment building, management isn’t elected.

  36. I never suggested the gas tax could do it all, or that it would be fair to do so. We also get road money from sales tax, income tax, and real estate tax.

    In England, fuel taxes mean that gas costs the equivalent of $5.50 a gallon, and they still have congestion problems. In London they raised the congestion fee and are thinking of raising it again, because they still have congestion.

    Now, real political suicide would be suggesting fuel taxes like that.
    But, even that hasn’t been enough to stem traffic, so it would seem there is plenty of elasticity in the market, bitching and moaning aside.

    Whether the money comes from gas taxes or tolls or loans is irrelevant, it is still coming out of our pocket. And when we are spending the money for the ICC we ought to consider what it would have cost 30 years ago, and how much we have spent bitching and moaning in the meantime.

    How do you think we got that $100 million dollar backlog, anyway? Maybe it was by not spending the money when we needed to. And now, we want to sock the entire bill to “the newcomers”, as if we had nothing to do with it.

    I don’t claim to have any answers. All I know is that congestion is expensive, too, and not very productive. At least road taxes put people to work, while congestion just keeps them idle.

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Mr. Gross:

    I would tackle our growth and transportation with the following programs:

    -create a state department of planning assigned the task of creating better plans
    for communities linked to transportation improvements that encourages new growth
    to be used to rebuid our cities and our older suburbs;
    -have the state build more railroads, light rail systems and streetcar systems,
    as part of this program;
    -new highway construction needs to be reconsidered in light of that program that
    would change development patterns, save farmland and create a better Virginia;
    -the regional pdcs, mpos and VDOT districts need to be aligned to reflect our
    needs, such as one pdc for Northern Virginia;
    -and our transportation system needs more funds, thus I would raise the sales tax
    another $.01 cents, dedicating those funds for this need.

    I sure you will trash this plan, as you have my other suggestions on this blog
    relative to the growth in Northern Virginia’s impact on the state. These are
    complex problems requiring complex solutions.

    Those who cry and whine about these issues, make useless attacks against VDOT, blindly
    support House Speaker Bill Howell’s conduct in attacking the Governor and the Senate
    and trash others who desire a voice in this discussion are not helping our state.

    Those of you who write for this blog are not doing a good job for Virginia.

    Happy holidays, again Mr. Gross. With this note, I will say good day to all of you.

    A Civic and Civil Minded Virginian

  38. Anonymous Avatar


    Dear Mr. Gross:

    I would tackle our growth and transportation
    problems with the following programs:

    -create a State Planning Department assigned
    the task of creating better plans for our
    communities linked to transportation improve-
    ments that encourages new growth to be used
    to rebuild our cities and older suburbs;

    -have Virginia build more railroads, light
    rail systems and streetcar lines as a key
    part of this program;

    -new highway construction should be reviewed
    and reconsidered in light of this program that
    would change development patterns, save farm-
    land and create a better Virginia;

    -Virginia’s regional PDCs, MPOs and VDOT dist-
    ricts need to be realigned to better meet our
    needs, such as creating one PDC for Northern

    -and our transportation system needs more funds,
    thus I would raise the sales tax another $.01 cents
    for this program and need.

    Larry Gross, I am sure you will trash this plan, as
    you have my other suggestions on this blog relative
    to Northern Virginia’s impact on the state.

    These are complex problems requiring complex and
    difficult solutions.

    Those who cry and whine about these issues, attack
    consumers trying to meet their housing needs, the
    real estate industry trying to meet those needs,
    and make useless attacks against VDOT, blindly support
    House Speaker Bill Howell’s conduct in attacking the
    Governor and Senate (a speaker’s whose style is much
    like Tom Delay’s during his tenure in the Congress)
    and trash others who desire a voice in this discussion
    I have sought to have on this blog are not helping our

    Those of you write for this blog are not doing a good
    job for Virginia.

    I would invited Larry Gross to take all of you on a trip
    across the Falmouth Bridge near Howell’s office across the
    river from Fredericksburg.

    Your positions are thin when you realized a grind it is
    for people to get in and out of this city on Rt. 1 north.

    Then, I think Larry Gross should take you up Rt. 17 west
    of town in Stafford County.

    Traffic there often is bumper to bumper from GEICO’s regional
    operation center to I-95.

    Likewise, traffic on I-95 from Rt. 17 south of town now is
    often bumper to bumper.

    All of these problems would be relieved if we had the Outer
    Connector, which funds were available for the first leg from
    I-95 to Rt. 17 and plans for the second leg from Rt. 17 over
    the river to Rt. 3 is what set the likes of Larry Gross on a
    course to kill the project.

    Larry Gross describes that highway a beltway plan for the
    Fredericksburg region. That is a lie and part of the scare
    tactic he and others used to kill the project.

    The Outer Connector was a long planned, publicly supported road
    in that part of Virginia, designed to be a limited access parkway,
    with a great bridge design for the river crossing that would looped
    around Fredericksburg, as Rt. 199 does around Williamsburg.

    The road would have taken traffic off of Fredericksburg’s clogged
    highway system, provided congestion relief in the two adjoining
    counties, make it easier for residents to get to a community college
    and university campus and employment centers in the area.

    Rt. 3 west of Fredericksburg would have had major relief because of
    that road concept.

    But Larry Gross and his supporters killed the project and those funds
    were directed to solve problems in West Point, whose community leaders
    welcomed VDOT’s help to get a causeway, highway and two new bridges.

    Larry Gross should hang his head in shame because of the damage he has
    done to the Fredericksburg region, caused residents to spend more time
    in traffic jams and to have deal with some of the worst traffic in the

    With this note, I will say good day to all of you.

    A Civic and Civil Minded Virginia

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I guess I should feel flattered that civic-minded feels a single guy with some helpers could derail a major project. Gee.. if I’m THAT good.. I ought to hire myself out to anyone opposed to any project.. you know.. make some money..

    The truth:

    Before the OC – I was totally clueless about how transportation “worked” – like many folks and I don’t claim even now to know as much as I should or could…. but…

    There was no way to actually discuss the merits of the OC project until one could better understood the when, whys and hows.

    The plain and simple truth is that it was a beltway proposal – and the proof is easily available.. Check out the VDOT web page where the official name of the project is the Northwest Quadrant. notice the word Quadrant. Civic-minded calls this a lie… hmmm… gee.. I guess the word “quadrant” is a lie.

    but the road was never to be – because of the ineptness of VDOT…. in dealing with controversy – something Civic MInded actually acknowledges when he admits that VDOT also failed on other local controversial projects – AND – he blames this NOT on VDOT but on Bill Howell… !!!! gazookes….. civic-minded is saying that Larry Gross and Bill Howell KILLED VDOT projects… now I AM flattered! 🙂

    VDOT did not have a viable financial plan but instead a farce of a financial plan.

    They did not have a Record of Decision from Federal Highways – no permission to build.

    Three – Federal Agencies – the Park Service, the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers were OPPOSED to the road because of the harm it would cause, it’s cost, and it’s minimal effectiveness at congestion relief.

    What little money they did have was actually stolen from other existing projects that had been sitting for years in the 6yr plan – money was diverted from the very projects that civic-minded cites as examples of projects that suffered because the OC was not built. The reality is – they suffered by de-funding them.

    What the OC was – was a beltway plan to BYPASS existing congested roads – to essentially abandon those roads by siphoning off money intended for their improvement – to instead fund the Northwest Quadrant.

    But the crowning glory of the OC – the reason it was killed – was not because of a relatively small group of opposition – POLLS showed that more than half the people in the area were opposed to it as well as many elected.

    and VDOT.. with their arrogant and imperious approach to such projects – rather than respond to the public – and work a plan that was acceptable – choose to ignore the public – and local supervisors who continued to back VDOT – actually got voted out of office …

    Now Civic-minded thinks all of this was caused by the “opposition”…

    So .. Civic-minded who also says he does not like to “personalize” issues and urges discussion on the merits … has this to say ……. “Larry Gross should hang his head in shame because of the damage he has
    done to the Fredericksburg region”

    I’m not ashamed at all. In fact, the OC was an eye-opener for ME and the public in terms of how VDOT operates and, in many respects, exposed them and their really bogus approaches to transportation planning.

    And I’m not alone in my view of VDOT by any stretch of the imagination. In the 2002 Referenda that had VDOT receiving the revenues from an proposed increase in the Sales TAX – was soundly defeated not only in NoVa but in HD Also.

    If one believes civic-minded – all of this is part of an evil conspiracy to make VDOT look bad and to kill needed roads. I’d say the civic-minded .. simply does not “get it”.

    And I’d like to point this out also so folks will not mistake where I am coming from in my criticisms

    ….. There are many, many (thousands) of hardworking VDOT employees who spend every day trying to keep the roads safe and available to the traveling public. We are all indebted to them… the guys up at 3a.m. to move that snow so we can get to work, kids to school, ..etc.

    The problem is .. that VDOT has “arms” – components that deal with “planning” and it is this group along with the group that handles their finances that have failed at serving the needs of the public – and safeguarding the reputation of VDOT as a customer-oriented agency that it should be since it is spending taxpayer money.

    At it’s heart – VDOT has a strong road-building heritage (and they are the 3rd biggest in the country); but they’ve had and continue to have a great deal of trouble dealing with planning transportation – beyond one road at a time – and maintaining their finances so that they can actually build what they promise – on time and on budget.

    these flaws – despite civic-minded claims are NOT the result of opposition – they belong to VDOT and what civic-minded seems to be saying is that by citing these flaws as part of the problem that we are “bashing” VDOT.

    Their fundamental approach has always been that more roads are needed to deal with congestion – period – and that approach has basically led them to this point of time – where they are out of money with a 100 billion backlog and they got here by attempting to solve transportation challenges by building projects like the failed OC.

    Their only response to this – is that we never built enough roads… and apparently this is where civic-minded is coming from. Folks with this view – drove VDOT into the ground… and now they want to reinvigorate VDOT with new money…. and folks who question this are, in civic-minder’s world the real problem.

    🙂 … gotta give civic-minded credit .. he IS consistent… 🙂

    It’s amazing to me – that being the 3rd largest DOT in the country – that VDOT NEVER took the lead in looking into Congestion Pricing… rather they followed … kicking and screaming.. to the point where the GA passed legislation to allow private enterprise to pursue it.

    Never once .. did VDOT consider how to recover costs and make fundamental changes in NoVa by utilizing congestion pricing in CONCERT with the Springfield Interchange or the Wilson Bridge.

    Those two projects – essentially defunded dozens of other needed projects…

    re: civic-minded suggestions… about raising the sales tax by one percent.

    Important to acknowledge that VDOT .. ALREADY gets 1/2% of the existing sales tax that brings in about 700 million a year. He advocates upping this to 1 1/2 % to bring in 2.1 Billion for year for VDOT.

    the important question .. would the same folks who voted against this idea in 2002 now support this idea?

    I don’t think so.. but maybe so… are any legislators on board with this concept?

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    The 2002 sales tax referendums failed I believe because a
    trust problem the public has with the state government
    relative to dealing with our growth and transportation

    That is why the state has to play a role in creating better
    land-use planning in Virginia linked with more creative
    transportation improvements.

    The far right wing of GOP, Speaker Howell’s power base in
    the House of Delegates GOP caucus, played the no tax increase
    card as well.

    There is no free lunch. Fredericksburg area residents sitting
    in traffic jams daily on I-95, Rt. 3, Rt. 1 and Rt. 17 no it is
    going to cost money to dig us out of the hole we are struggling
    to manage.

  41. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Tis indeed a trust issue.

    No free lunch – POLLs show folks understand this.

    They’re willing to approve referenda for specific projects.

    They’re willing to pay TOLLs.

    They’re willing to pay sales tax for Transit.

    What they are not willing to do is send it to Richmond.

    Those that advocate state-wide taxes – seem to me to be oblivious to this.

    I think there ARE solutions and most folks willing to step up and pay but if the only option they are going to be presented with is a state-wide tax – then I think you’re empowering the no-taxers who will surely claim credit.

    Even as popular as Mark Warner was – he could not overcome the “trust” factor in the 2002 referenda.

    Kaine would be, in my view, well advised to understand what paths gain support and which ones don’t

  42. Anonymous Avatar

    Part of our problem today in Virginia is that
    House GOP Caucus does not want to give the
    Senate nor the Governor a victory on the
    transportation issue. It has nothing to do
    with the merits of the issue, but it is just
    raw politics. Mark Warner failed in the 2002
    referendum votes in Hampton Roads and Northern
    Virginia for that reason, as well as the trust
    issue and the anti-tax guys lining up with the
    likes of Mr. Gross. None of this activity is
    getting Virginia solutions to our problems …
    it is as if many of the palyers in this game
    would rather punch each other in the nose than
    get something done.

  43. Anonymous Avatar

    8:06 With all due respect, your comments sound similar to editorials in the Washington Post or the superficial remarks regularly heard from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Money will fix transporation. Instead of analysis, we see slogans, emotionals pleas, glad-handing and back-slapping.

    VDOT has no cost controls. Shouldn’t Kaine fix that problem before he asks us to pay more taxes? Please explain why that major problem should be ignored?

    The CTB funds roads based on lobbyist persuasion, rather than based on engineering and economic data. How many hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on roads that provide less benefit than the ones that weren’t built? Please explain why that major problem should be ignored?

    What about air quality issues? Will the EPA permit large-scale building of roads in NoVA? If not, then isn’t a tax increase in NoVA just going to send more money elsewhere in the state?

    What roads will be built or improved? What impact on LOS, safety, etc. will those construction projects provide? Let’s talk details instead of “fix the problem.”

    Why are taxpayers wasting billions to build the Silver Line that will not improve traffic congestion a single bit. Indeed, a study suggests that the added density at Tysons Corner would put about 8% more traffic on the roads in and around Tysons Corner than the entire Metrorail system takes off the roads throughout D.C., VA and MD. Why are we wasting money on this boondoggle if we have transportation funding shortfalls?

    What about adopting adequate public facilities ordinances like most of the rest of the civilized world? Indeed, North Carolina, another Dillon Rule state, has authorized APFO laws. Is that state’s economy collapsing? In fact, set aside the revenues Virginia receives from national defense and homeland security and I’ll bet NC’s economy is much stronger than VA’s.

    Neither the Governor, the Senate, the House Democrats, the MSM or the business buffons who attend meetings instead of attending to their business can answer any of these questions. Why not?

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear TooManyTaxes:

    Your lecture holds little weight in the
    Fredericksburg region (home to Larry Gross,
    another writer on this blog).

    Why don’t you and Mr. Gross spend a day
    trying to drive around this region:

    -you will encounter traffic jams on I-95
    from Rt. 17 (Falmouth interchange) to the
    south of town at Rt. 1 (Four Mile Fork

    -bumper to bumper traffic on Rt. 17 out
    to the big GEICO operation center;

    -bumper to bumper traffic on Rt. 1 at
    Falmouth on a bridge into the city that
    is the main access point for Stafford
    County residents to get to our regional
    medical center;

    -and the same problems on Rt. 1 in town,
    the Blue-Gray Parkway, Rt. 3 west of the
    city, Rt. 2 and 17 south of the city and
    on and on.

    The community has grown because of job
    growth in Northern Virginia which has
    forced young families to move further
    out to find affordable housing.

    The state has failed to provide
    funds to help the region keep up with
    our needs.

    The likes of you and Mr. Gross are just
    out of touch with a selfish, arrogant,
    to hell with everyone else attitude ….
    if you guys had been in control when
    the national interstate highway system
    was started it would have never been built.

    An Angry Fredericksburg Resident

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually, I not only live in the Fredericksburg Area – I have lived here for 45 years.
    When I came here, there was one high school, 15,000 people, one fire/rescue – etc.

    I watched us grow from 15,000 to 115,000 – and I know how we got here – where we have far more folks than roads able to support them.

    I lived BEFORE I-95 and BEFORE we had NoVa commuters. I lived here when Routes 3 and 17 were TWO lanes.

    And I did not oppose I-95, nor expansion of Routes 3 and 17 nor do I oppose expansion of I-95 right now to carry more traffic. I also supported the Transportation Referenda and I am in favor of expanding and improving our rural and arterial roads.

    And I DID support paths of the OC other than the one’s that went through the middle of Civil War Battlefields.

    What I did not support was the wanton destruction of Civil War Battlefields to save NoVa commuters 7 minutes.

    But the issue REALLY is not about opposition to roads – it’s about money and that is where “angry” and friends fall off of the reality wagon. They want more roads – without a clue about who will pay for them – and in their own simplistic minds – they actually think the “STATE” will pay for them and prefer to believe that those opposed to roads are actually able to keep State money from flowing into the area.

    Never once, do they apparently entertain the idea that money is the reason – a lack of it nor the fact that the money ball is in THEIR laps. They only need to show up at the Courthouse and demand that their taxes be raised to build more roads.

    But even then.. they fail to avail themselves of realities.

    Angry: Who the heck do you think is going to pay for Fredericksburg Area Roads?

    Do you REALLY think that folks living in NoVA or Hampton or Farmville are going to build YOUR roads?

    Why would anyone be dumb enough to think that someone who lives outside your own region is going to pay taxes for YOUR roads? Apparently many pro-roader type actually believe this….

    I tolerate folks like “civic-minded” and “angry” for the most part. I only ask that they put something on the table to deal with realities but what they prefer is to ignore realities and blame the lack of roads – not on themselves for a failure to pay for them – but others.

    When I see folks like “civic minded” and “angry” advocate for specific roads and specific ways for our region to pay for those roads – I’ll perhaps accept their criticism as something more than moronic views of reality.

  46. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry Gross:

    All of us contribute to public facilities and
    services for our common good.

    Such public investments contribute to our
    vitality and success as a community, state
    and nation.

    We all use roads in other parts of the state
    and nation , as do residents of other communities
    when they visit the Fredericksburg region.

    Your attacks, simplistic concepts and arrogant
    tone is a quite a commentary about your civic
    sense and character.

    A Friend of Virginia, Who Is An Angry and a Civic
    Minded Resident of the Fredericksburg Region

  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Friend” –

    Where do you think the money to “fix” local Fredericksburg Area roads went to?

    your attitude about “all of us contribute to public facilities” is pablum.

    You and I don’t “contribute”. We PAY for public facilities.

    Where do you think schools and libraries comes from? Do you think folks in other localities help us build them?

    Is that your concept of “public investments”?

    Anyone who thinks that statewide taxes are going to be reallocated with more dollars than Fredericksburg Area actually contributed is simply not dealing with realities.

    We DO all use roads in other parts of the state but we also use road in the Fredericksburg Area.

    Where do YOU think the money to fix Fredericksburg Area roads will come from?

    I’m asking a simple question and your credibility (and others) as a critic of other people is the issue.

    Folks like yourself continue to believe in fantasy with respect to who is responsible for roads.

    You essentially believe in the tooth fairy.. that somehow … money from outside the Fredericksburg Area will arrive in Fredericksburg for our roads.

    You and “angry” and “civic minded” have ZERO credibility. Your fuzzy-logic world with regard to roads and who pays for them… demonstrates clearly the disconnect between your own views and realities.

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear readers of this blog:

    I hope you will reflect about the anger
    and knee jerk ideas of Mr. Gross about
    our problems with growth and our pressing
    transportation needs … he is no friend
    of Virginia.

  49. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    all I can say is … 🙂

    sorry reader of this blog have to put up with these guys.

  50. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Let me try and delicately step in here.

    The last transportation bill was passed in 1986. It’s time for an update. Some people want to keep reforming VDOT and work on better landuse planning. Great ideas. But even if all of these ideas are implemented more money is needed this is a key point.

    This is where it gets tricky. Some people want to spend surpluses and raise fees. Some people want to use bonds. Some people want to raise taxes. Some people want to fundamentally change the system and move to a user based toll system with public private partnerships for major roads and have localities build minor roads.

    All of these ideas have positive and negatives. Like the people our elected officials are having a hard time deciding how to proceed with transportation. This is unfortunate because for every moment we delay costs of raw materials continue to increase. The ultimate solution is propably a combination of all of these ideas however there are many people on all sides that are unwillingly to compromise or even look at other ideas beyond their own. 🙁

    The majority of us on this blog want more accountability and better land use planning before more money is spent. I also think the majority of us know ultimately more money needs to be spent and there are a wide variety of opinions on how much and how additional money will be raised as stated earlier.

    Now I am really getting dangerous because I am going to try and forey into Fredricksburg where I admittedly have very limited knowledge.

    As growth has continued in the greater Northern Virginia area transportation needs have increased at a fast rate. To combat this problem many counties led most noticeably by Prince William have dedicated funds to build their own roads. Perhaps it is now time for Fredrickburg as well (This is where I am hazy because I don’t know if Fredricksburg already does this)

    The counterargument to this is roadbuilding is a state responsibility. Many people love to yell and scream that the state is not providing enough money to NoVA or perhaps an area where you live. However, this does nothing to solve problems. I submit that the majority of people in the Greater Northern Virginia area and perhaps other areas prefer using local money to pay for road improvements instead of sending money to Richmond.

    In closing, I am sure everyone knows about the Albo-Rust bill that had support across some party lines to raise local money to use on local transportation issues. I am admittedly puzzled as to why it was shot down so fast. I know there is some extreme political calculus going on. I think we can all agree the 2007 session should prove to be very interesting. 🙂

  51. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Great Input nova_middle_man

    I think you’re right on target with the observation about the quandary being how to proceed.

    An easy way to START is simply to look at how much money a locality now gets, the list of projects that they think they need to build and their costs.

    For instance, the Fredericksburg Area has spent about $50 million a year for about a decade or so – $500 million dollars. They have TWO lists – a 6yr build list and a longer timeframe 20 year list. The 6yr plan has no where enough money to build those projects in 6yrs. (and my question is WHY do we have such a bogus list to start with).

    Nova-middle-man is right on target again with the observation that delayed projects are projects that cost a lot more so the germane issue is how much money we need – right now – to build each Locality’s 6 yr plan – AND where that money will come from.

    As I have stated many times – it is wishful thinking – FOLLY – for each (for ANY) locality to entertain the thought that their money needs are going to be provided by the State by diverting tax revenues from other localities.

    Each locality is entitled to THEIR share and not much more unless the donor localities agree.

    This is why I am so frustrated with the likes of “civic-minded”, “angry” and “friends” and folks like them.

    There IS .. NO Free Lunch here.

    In the Fredericksburg Area – the city and the counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania to the North and South respectively – only Spotsylvania has had a successful referenda where citizens DID approve a tax increase to deal with the most urgent of local roads. Stafford voted their referenda down.

    The Fredericksburg Area DOES have the option of forming a transportation district to get permission for a 2% gas tax – for REGIONAL projects – something I think makes common sense.

    The Fredericksburg Area – the jurisdictions have voted support for the I-95 HOT Lane TOLL project.

    Stafford and Fredericksburg belong to VRE – Spotsylvania.. the jury is still out even though a POLL of citizens showed that 60% of them support joining VRE and by doing so – get several million dollars a year for roads.

    Despite the 3 recent guys.. I SUPPORT roads but ONLY if we accept the reality that we must pay for them and it is for that reason – I support PPTA, tolls and congestion pricing BECAUSE they will get projects built sooner, provide sustainable revenues for future projects and get built where there is demand for them.

    I oppose Richmond slush funds (statewide taxes) where VDOT is allowed to basically run amok by trying to build unfordable roads that are not effective in reducing congestion, much less focused on bang for the buck.

    I’m directly opposed to VDOT’s way of doing business because it blows off accountability, it does not rank and prioritize objectively and it intimidates and bullies localities into agreeing to VDOT’s priorities.

    VDOT will spend every penny they get their hands on – whether it returns value or not. They simply do not consider that to be their job.

    Finally, I think localities themselves are responsible for much of the mess we have – because they make land-use decisions without regard to their impacts on the transportation network – and their convenient excuse is that it is VDOT’s responsibility.

    Localities have, for years, evaded responsibility for their own actions… and now the time has come to pay the piper …..

    I think nova_middle_man and myself are in pretty much agreement.. on the major points…

    I think also that the issues that I’ve identified with regard to taxes and localities share of the funding is on target with regard to how the GA will have to deal with the issues.

    The plain truth is – that it is going to cost a LOT of money for transportation … AND… any kind of a plan that is going to gain majority support WILL … have to be relatively fair and equitable… and fundamentally.. that means that localities like Fredericksburg and NoVa … ARE … going to own much if not all of the financial responsibility for their own transportation needs.

  52. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear friends:

    The transportation problem in the Fredericksburg area
    is a state and national issue for traffic on I-95, Rt.
    17, Rt. 3 and Rt. 1 is not all local traffic.

    If you would take the time to visit Rt. 17 North in
    Stafford County, you would see a great deal of truck
    traffic using that route going up to I-81 to the PA
    Turnpike to go to the Mid-West and further up I-81
    into the Northeast, the latter route is used to avoid
    the problems on I-95.

    A great deal of the residential growth here is the
    result of various federal agencies employees living
    in the region which will increase because of the
    BRAC plans that will move thousands of jobs to
    southern Fairfax and Prince William counties.

    These employees all use cars, buses, vans or VRE to
    get to their jobs to serve our country.

    Then there is all that traffic moving up and down the
    East Coast along I-95 that gets bogged down here because
    of the local traffic which uses the interstate for our
    main street, because that is the primary means of moving
    north-south in this region of 300,000 people because Mr.
    Gross and his friends killed the Outer Connector that
    could have helped our traffic flow as the Prince William
    Parkway has done for that community.

    Stafford County voters decided rightly not to take on the
    building of roads for it is the responsibility of the state,
    which has greater taxing authority which gives them ability
    to raise funds from others than just county residents to meet
    this need.

    Guys you can try to twist this issue 15 ways to Sunday, but
    the hard reality is that the state needs more money to solve our
    transportation problems, some of which should be state funds
    and some of which come from the federal government.

    A Friend of Virginia

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    Friend of Virginia – I think you make a reasonable case that more money could be spent on transportation. Many people would likely agree. But there are major problems with transportion in Virginia. The first of which is that the system has very little to do with moving people and goods in a safe and efficient manner.

    Transportation in Virginia is all about helping a few selected people in in state advance their real estate investments. The state auditor found that the Commonwealth Transportation Board makes funding decisions based on which interested party can best lobby the CTB. The CTB funds projects without regard to their fit with an overall transportation plan or engineering and economic data.

    For example, I suspect that VDOT could identify 100 intersections or bottlenecks around the state that, if improved, would substantially improve traffic flow in those and related locations. Those types of projects would likely produce substantial benefits for commuters and other travelers. But those types of projects are not funded or done.

    Rather, we see real estate investors persuade the CTB to fund their pet projects, roads that are nearby their land investments. Take a look at the NoVA wish list.

    The system is so broken and so corrupt that, if we raised taxes substantially for transportation, very few of the projects that would actually help move people and goods better and safer would likely be constructed. The added money would go to build new roads near a few connected landowners’ holdings.

    Take a look at the proposed Silver Line in Fairfax County. This boondoggle is being pushed by West Group and other big Tysons Corner landowners so that they can have their properties rezoned and so that they can receive financial windfalls. It has nothing to do with improving transportation — yet it will cost billions. In fact, completion of the rail line will cause the elimination of many express bus routes, such that many commuters will actually have longer commutes with the train and its extra stations than they have today with express bus service.

    Without reforms, you, I and everyone else will just pay more and see no relief. Keep in mind that a well-known real estate developer once stood up at a meeting in Richmond. He told the crowd that he built things and its was the duty of taxpayers to fund whatever infrastructure was necessary to support his investments. A good friend of mine attended that meeting. That anecdote explains transportation in Virginia. You could pay 25% of your income in transportation taxes, but you’d see no significant relief without reforms.

  54. Anonymous Avatar

    Fredericksburg’s transportation is broken and a disaster.
    Our problems are not simply the failure of a few intersections
    or bottlenecks. All of our highways that function as our
    major transportation corridors are failing to meet our needs.

    Virginia needs more money to solve these problems.

    Virginia needs a state planning department to facilitate better
    land use plans for our regions. You can’t create plans community
    by community. The system does not work.

    Virginia needs VDOT to concentrate on congestion relief.

    Virginia needs more rail, new light rail system similar to what is
    going to be built in Norfolk and new streetcar systems similar to
    what has worked so well in Portland, Oregon. Arlington County is
    a great case study relative to how to tie new development to mass
    transit and create a better community in the process.

    Virginians need to come to grip with the fact we need new growth
    to be channeled into our cities and older suburbs. Such growth
    would allow us to rebuild those areas as has been in done so well
    in Arlington County and Norfolk. Thus, we would create a better

    Virginians need to realize our job growth, low unemployment means
    more residents, more homes and more vehicles on our roads. Think
    about these numbers for growth in just the Greater Washington DC
    Metropolitan Area alone over the next 20 years:

    -2 million more residents;
    -1.65 million more jobs;
    -and 833,000 more housing units to respond to this demand.

    Virginians need to understand that Hampton Roads cargo movement
    is predicted to double over that period putting more demand on our
    highway and rail systems. A Danish company is building a new port
    facility in Portsmouth that will move 1 million additional containers
    a year. There are now more than 700 distribution facilities in that
    community sorting container contents for movement to other facilities
    in our state and elsewhere.

    These are complex problems requiring complex solutions.

    A Friend of Virginia

  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think what has happened in Fredericksburg is indicative of the larger statewide and VDOT issues and worth expending further words on. If others disagree.. let me know and I’ll cease and desist.

    Fredericksburg DID have road SIGNIFICANT funds before VDOT’s 6yr meltdown but localities and VDOT chose to NOT spend that money on the most urgent congestion bottlenecks but instead on economic development.

    In Stafford county, VDOT/Stafford chose to build a new Interstate Ramp near Stafford’s new “reliever” airport – and quite a bit of undeveloped land and they spent another 30 million dollars on an intersection near their headquarters. They chose to do these 2 projects instead of upgrading Rt 17, Route 610 and the Falmouth Intersection.

    In Spotsylvania, the county choose to spend about 20 million dollars on a 2 mile bypass around their courthouse (again with a large amount of undeveloped land) INSTEAD of spending that money to widen Route 3 and Route 1 near Massaponax.

    This did not “happen” – it was explicit choices by VDOT and the localities to spend very limited funding on something OTHER than congestion relief.

    The point I’m making is that the PROCESS for determining priorities focused on factors not related to traffic counts, or accident counts, peak hour congestion, bottlenecks, etc.

    This goes on Statewide and CTB routinely signs off on such projects because VDOT approves of them also.

    At the same time, both Stafford and Spotsylvania seeing THOUSANDS of new homes without any plans to upgrade the arterials and secondary roads that these new houses were be built on.

    Their attitude – still stated often is that – “roads are VDOT’s responsibility”

    VDOT gets 400 new lanes miles a year to maintain. A significant CHUNK of that 400 belongs to Stafford and Spotsylvania which over the last decade have approved dozens, if not hundreds of subdivisions – PRIMARILY for the same NoVa commuters who BLEAT about how bad I-95 is… while each of them pays about a $1.50 to use it.

    “Friends” and company think that the problem is not enough money – essentially that we need “more” so that we can build both our economic development projects .. and of course those “other” ones for congestion relief.

    My attitude is that it is exactly this KIND of thinking that has got us to the point we are at right now.

    “Friends” attitude is not uncommon at all – but in my view – it is fundamentally irresponsible and not connected with realities.

    Such thinking leads localities to justify choosing economic development projects over projects to deal with the demands of growth.

    “Friends” and company fervently believe that mega projects are the solution to these problems – but they seldom apparently think about the financial realities associated with such projects – because when those projects can’t go forward without funding.. they need someone to blame… besides a lack of money.

    The fact that the road (OC) would have required far more than what Fredericksburg receives in transportation allocations did not faze them – BECAUSE – they believe (like many do statewide) that …. SOMEHOW… the Fredericksburg Area was going to get MORE money for transportation than what the Fredericksburg Area actually generates from the gas and sales tax.

    So .. here we have .. folks like “Friend” in NoVa, HR, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, etc … ALL of them thinking that they are going to get back MORE from the state than what their localities actually contribute.

    When you ask these folks to put forth ideas on how to actually deal with the financial realities, what you get is
    words and phrases like “complicated problems” and “complex solutions” and “growth is coming and we have to deal with it” – in other words.. they really don’t have much beyond a fervent belief that if we raise taxes – we will fix the problem.

    Raising the gas tax – 10 cents a gallon statewide will raise 400/500 million STATEWIDE. Think about this – for 10 cents, something that many characterize as political suicide – we’re going to divvy up 400/500 million among 100 counties and a couple dozen cities including NoVa/HR – and yet “friends” and company think that somehow Fredericksburg will get 200 million (the cost of the OC)…

    There is a perfect solution for their road. Build a TOLL Road. I’ve suggested this to them – and their response is deafening in the absence of a response. Could it be that there is no response because they want the State (other localities) to fund the road?

    Don’t wait for VDOT – form your own PPTA and solicit the localities. Offer them a substantial “cut” of the profits to build other roads.

  56. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, your solutions are non-solutions.

    They do not address the need for new tactics and a state
    role in dealing with land use issues.

    The interchange for the Stafford Airport was driven by the
    FAA’s need for a reliever airport for the Greater Washington
    DC Metropoitan Area.

    Federal funding helped build that interchange which was part
    of the plan to build the Outer Connector around Fredericksburg.

    The first leg of the project which had funding (that was
    eventually used to solve problems in West Point) for a needed
    connection between I-95 to Rt. 17 near the GEICO operations
    center that would relieved the bottleneck on Rt. 17 from I-95
    out to that location.

    That corridor has become a major employment for this part of

    The second leg of that project would have connected the Outer
    Connector over the river to Rt. 3.

    That project would have greatly reduced traffic on Rt. 17 for
    those living in your home county could have had a 20 minute
    trip over the river to their jobs there or adult classes offered
    by the University of Mary Washington at the Stafford County campus.

    Local opposition in Fredericksburg to road projects has been
    a major problem for the community that has resulted in the mess
    at Falmouth and the death of the Outer Connector, because of Larry
    Gross’s activities.

    Larry, you are using VDOT as a whipping boy for these problems that
    I think it totaly unfair.

    You live in a region of the state that could be the home for more
    than 500,000 residents within 20 years.

    Larry, I think you owe it to your home to reconsider your positions
    and join with others to find realistic solutions to the problems in
    in the Fredericksburg region.

    A Friend of Virginia

  57. Anonymous Avatar

    FoV – I don’t doubt your sincerity or zeal, but you have not answered, or even tried to answer, a single question. With the sole exception of population figures, you don’t any data, but instead, use adjectives for proof. All we are told is to leave VDOT alone, don’t upset the development community, and pay higher taxes.

    I just don’t see where engaging in the same behavior, but paying more for the privilege, will produce anything beyond more costly same old, same old.

  58. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear TooManyTaxes:

    I doubt you have a solution for resolving the
    growth management and transportation issues
    Virginia is facing … I think I have put forth
    some ideas to help us move in the right direction
    …..the problems we have were created over the
    last 20 years because of poor planning by local
    governments, lack of a state role in our planning,
    lack of funds to meet our transportation needs and
    the lack of a more creative approach to meet our
    transportation needs …it is going to take some
    time, new approaches and additional funds to dig
    ourselves out of the mess we are struggling to
    address ….Merry Christmas to you and your pal
    Larry Gross …. I hope you have a great 2007
    sitting in traffic jams in Virginia you do not
    want us to resolve …..

    A Friend of Virginia

  59. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    FYI – The Stafford Interchange cost over 60 million dollars.

    Then “friend” states that Route 17 has terrible congestion and no money to fix it.

    “Friend” sez that FAA “wanted” the airport.

    The truth is that FAA provided over 90% of the funding for it and to date that airport is little used.

    It might be some day but the entire point is that VDOT and STAFFORD … CHOSE to spend the 60 million on an Interchange rather than improving Route 17.

    Further – the new interchange opens up a tremendous amount of land for more homes – that will overload the local roads – like the others – because as “friend” states – “it’s up to VDOT to improve those roads – not Stafford”

    Then “friend” attempts to blame all of this on “opposition”

    This is classic VDOT “spin” and .. misrepresenting the public while they continue to spend the public’s money on interchanges rather than dealing with congestion and bottlenecks.

    Friend’s “solution” is to give VDOT more tax money to continue to essentially to do business this way.

    “Friend”, in my view, represents THE problem with transportation in Va and despite his claim – is no friend of Va.

  60. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry Gross:

    Mr. Gross you are a man full of anger and hate … a bitter person ….your
    last posting is full of errors and distortions which you are known to use to
    make your case….you do not want to accept constructive ideas from others …

    …if you want less growth in Virginia, then you need to launch a campaign
    to move the federal government to the Mid-West,

    …you need to seek a law banning vehicles in Virginia for business and personal use,
    that will solve our transportation problems,

    …you need to limit family sizes to control our population growth … gee, that sounds
    like government policy in China,

    ….and hey Mr. Gross maybe you should move to China … you public policy goals would work
    well there …you are no friend of Virginia for you do not want to reach out to others to
    find viable means to solve our problems !!!!!!!

    A Friend of Virginia

  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    There is no bitterness and anger – only amusement of someone who advocates like you do and has the arrogance to label themselves a “friend” while hiding their true identity. Some folks would call you a joke…

    “Friend” you are so devout an apologist for VDOT’s arrogant and irresponsible approach to transportation issues that I admit I suspect a rat in the room. No wonder you’re hiding.

    We need no laws to stop growth. Growth is healthy, good and inevitable.

    What we need is responsible people and policies to deal with the realities of growth – not, after the fact, apologies and blaming others.

    Our transportation problems are of our own making, in part due to folks like you in my opinion.

    It’s a fact. VDOT chooses projects NOT based on objective metrics. JLARC states this and so does the State Auditor.

    You actually support VDOT in doing business this way. No apologies – instead, advocacy!!

    “Friend” – methinks it’s not Virginia you are a friend of – but VDOT! 🙂

    I only hope others are entertained by this dialogue – I know that I am.

  62. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    VDOT has no role in land use decisions in Virginia.

    VDOT does not control the funding and laws that govern
    it passed by the General Assembly.

    You are the one who is no friend of Virginia.

    You refuse to enterain the ideas of others or to consider
    approaches that could help us solve our problems that have been
    created over the last twenty years.

    It is going to take time and a collective effort by all
    Virginians to resolve the growth and transportation issues
    we need to resolve.

    I do not think you have the ability to help us achieve those
    goals …..

    A Friend of Virginia
    A Person Who Knows You

  63. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Friend” … 🙂 I feel like I’m getting to know you… 🙂

    I see you’ve modified your tag line… nice touch. maybe I can tease a name out of you…

    Actually.. I’ve put a bunch of things on the table…

    and I’ve invited you to do so but you seem much my interested in personal attacks…

    and a lot less interested in discussing merits….

    I asked you – how you would fund the Fredericksburg Region’s transportation needs.

    I’m asking you again since you chose more personal attacks rather than answer the question.

    The only thing you’ve put on the table is to convene a state-wide Growth Commission to “study” this “complex” issue and come up with “strategies”… presumedly after we’ve turned VDOT loose again with new money.

    I’ve invited you to propose new projects for the Fredericksburg Area – including a new Outer Connector – as long as you tell me how you would fund it. Again.. you prefer to go play hide an seek in the closet rather than respond with something meaningful.

    Now the reason I’m enjoying this.. is your style is familiar… and your arguments stale and devoid of reasoning.

    … I think a could of threads back.. I used the word blather… I thought perhaps a bit hasty at the time but I must tell you that I am reconsidering that judgment in light of ALL the verbiage from you – virtually none of it worth much other than idle entertainment.

  64. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    Just more of the same. If you were so right, why aren’t you
    running for a seat in the General Assembly so you could solve
    these problems ….you will never do that for you just want
    to sit on the sidelines and take shots ………………..
    at VDOT, the real estate community, families looking for a
    decent place to live, growing businesses that offer jobs for
    our residents, our local governments, the federal government,
    the FAA and the list goes on and on ….with this note I am
    closing out my visit to this blog which is a black hole for
    new ideas and constructive thought !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A Friend of Virginia
    A Person Who Knows You

    Merry Christmas!!!!!
    Happy New Year !!!!!

  65. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Friend” HO HO HO 🙂

    hey.. speaking of VDOT .. take a gander at this:

    “The Real Story of Eminent Domain in Virginia:”

    …In Cartwright v. Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner of Virginia, Raymond Cartwright, a citizen of Virginia, sought a document from VDOT under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter FOIA).

    This document was a compilation of public records that VDOT collected with money provided by the Virginia taxpayers.

    When Mr. Cartwright asked for the document under FOIA, VDOT denied his request. VDOT claimed that Mr. Cartwright,
    could not have the document because because it had sued Mr. Cartwright to take his property, he could no longer exercise his rights under FOIA. VDOT essentially contended that Mr. Cartwright lost his rights as a Virginia citizen the moment VDOT took his property.

    The supreme court did not dismiss the case. Instead, it heard the case, reversed the lower court, and corrected the injustice. VDOT and the Attorney General’s office spent more than $60,000 of the taxpayers’ money trying to keep a document from a citizen of Virginia—a document the citizen was clearly entitled to under Virginia’s FOIA provisions.

    This is the kind of thing “Friend of Virginia” apparently wants VDOT to continue to be able to do…

    I would say that “Friend” is no friend of Virginia but instead a friend of VDOT…. who .. tends .. toward blather as a skill.

    You know.. I’ve put on the table:

    1. – localities be responsible for roads associated with development using impact fees, and proffers.

    2. – Regions/MPOs band together to levy transportation sales taxes for regional roads

    3. – that major new infrastructure be built as PPTA toll roads

    4. – indexing the gas tax

    5. – that VDOT adopt JLARC and the Va Auditor of Public Accounts recommendations

    Now what has “Friend” put on the table for consideration?

    All I see and hear is a “pro-growth”, “pro-tax” VDOT apologist… who enjoys personal attacks… and likes to hide in the closet…

  66. Anonymous Avatar


    Monday is Christmas. I think this is the
    season of goodwill.

    A Friend of Virginia
    A Person Who Truly Does Know You Now

  67. I have a purely practical “for now” question. I just moved back to Virginia after some years away, and today, in a holiday trip returning from the Clarke County (northern Shenandoah Valley) area to South Hill in southern Virginia (off Interstate 85), I ran into the dreaded stretch of 17 in Falmouth, from Geico to the Interstate 95 onramp. We spent an hour going several miles to get on Interstate 95.

    I found this site by googling something like “alternatives 17 Interstate 95 Falmouth,” and I’d like to know from those of you familiar with the area — WHAT OTHER ROUTE CAN I TAKE?!

    I’d gladly drive 30 miles out of the way to prevent a one-hour delay of this kind.

    What suggestions do you have for just getting AROUND this mess until you guys and VDOT figure out the real solution?

    My mom lives near Winchester and here I am in south-central VA (an hour and a half south of the center of Richmond on Interstate 85, near the NC line), so this trip is going to be a part of my life.

    Please, tell me how to do it withOUT Falmouth!

    Thanks for any insights you can provide, and please, skip beating me up for being shortsighted and selfish to just want to avoid this kind of mess.

  68. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Jen, Try driving all the way south on Rt. 29/15 to Culpeper, then taking Rt. 3 to Interstate 95. I’ve taken Rt. 3 once, and it isn’t as bad as the mess around Falmouth. It adds 15 to 20 minutes on Rt. 29/15, but it’s less stressful and it may be driving through Falmouth at rush hour.

    On the other hand, I’ve driven through Falmouth on the way from Richmond to Dulles and found it not so bad. You might have hit a particularly bad time.

  69. Groveton Avatar


    I wonder if being more controversial was one of your New Year’s resolutions.

    I find your story about growing up in Washington, then attending UVA, then moving to Richmond interesting. You say that Washington is “psychologically distant” to you now. I was born in Washington, grew up in Fairfax County, attended UVA and then moved back to Northern Virginia. I find the rest of Virginia (let’s say south of Fredricksburg) “psychologically distant”.

    The difference is that I’d like to also consider the rest of Virginia “economically distant” as well. Unfortunately, I cannot do this because the “rest of Virginia” is robbing Northern Virginia blind.

    I live in a “congestion area” because the taxes generated in Northern Virginia are sent to Richmond and squandered on idiotic programs like building a 4 lane “beltway” around Richmond. Now, some want to charge me a “congestion toll” because I live in an area robbed by the down-state politicians. In addition, it is estimated that only 25 cents of all taxes raised for education in Fairfax County are spent on education in Fairfax County. The rest is “re-distributed” to other areas of Virginia.

    Meanwhile, cities like Charlotte, NC and Jacksonville, FL have pursued intelligent and effective economic development programs while Hampton Roads and Richmond have stagnated.

    I guess, in “downstate” Virginia, it’s easier to live off the teat of Northern Virginia than to generate any substantial local economic growth.

  70. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, First let me say that no one — and I mean NO ONE — has been more critical of the 288 and Pocahontas Parkway projects around Richmond than I have. They were truly ill conceived projects, and it’s a travesty that the rest of the state wound up bailing out the Richmond region on 288. I am not in favor of robbing NoVa or any other region of the state. I’m in favor of a road funding formula that treats each region fairly and gets the job done.

    Now, when it comes to congestion tolls, you may find that idea unattractive. But is it worse than the alternative — raising taxes, running it through the transportation trust fund formula, which is 20 years out of date and favors rural areas, so that only a fraction ends up back in NoVa? At least I propose a plan in which new monies that come from NoVa stay in NoVa.

  71. Groveton Avatar


    Thanks for the message. I have worked in London and Singapore. Usage / congestion tolls work. In fact, they work better than you’d expect – technically. They also seem to actually reduce congestion. Singapore is particularly adept with these tolls – changing the toll by time of day, etc.

    In the end analysis I just don’t trust the state government in Virginia. If your hypothesis is right:

    1. Gasoline taxes will decline (or, at least, grow at a slower rate).
    2. The change in gas tax will create a shortfall (a further shortfall?) in transportation funding.
    3. Usage tolls will cover the shortfall AND localize the spending of the transportation budget to where the congestion is greatest (and, therefore, the dollars of usage toll the greatest).

    My view of the future is a bit different:

    1. Virginia remains a so-called “Dillon’s Rule” state.
    2. Elected state politicians in Virginia remain focused on getting re-elected which means getting votes in whatever way possible.
    3. Gasoline usage per mile traveled goes down over time (I don’t think it will happen as quickly as you do but I think it will happen).
    4. Virginia faces (continues to face) a transportation deficit.
    5. Usage tolls are implemented but they are disproportionately implemented in Northern Virginia.
    6. Northern Virginia becomes more and more usage fee based allowing for a larger and larger transfer of the gas tax downstate.
    7. Northern Virginians pay more and (proportionally) continue to get less.

    Addiction is a terrible thing and the state legislature is addicted to buying down-state votes with Northern Virginia’s money.

    Usage tolls will not change that a bit.

    They are only another arrow in the wealth re-distribution quiver.

    Jim – I think you trust the state government to do the right thing. I don’t. The less power the state government has, the happier I am. Usage tolls just gives the flacks another way to take money from me and spend it somewhere else.

  72. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    No, Groveton, I don’t trust the state to do the right thing. I am eternally cynical. But your logic breaks down in step 6: “Northern Virginia becomes more and more usage fee based allowing for a larger and larger transfer of the gas tax downstate.”

    Doesn’t matter how much congestion revenue NoVa has, it won’t effect the distribution of the gas tax. Monies that go into the Transportation Trust Fund are distributed by an antiquated formula (circa 1980) that disproportionately favors rural areas. That won’t change whether NoVa gets a dime from congestion fees or $10 billion from congestion fees.

    One of the beauties of the congestion-pricing idea (at least as I envision it) is that all revenues would stay within the traffic congestion district.

  73. Groveton Avatar

    Why not just update the formula to fit today’s reality?

    Because disproportionately favoring rural areas is in the best interest of many of legislators?

    How can any law be written to ensure that all revenues stay permanently within the traffic congestion district?

    Can’t the same politicians who refuse to update a formula 25+ years out of date also decide to change their minds regarding where the traffic congestion fees are spent?

    If there is a way to guarantee that “all revenues stay within the traffic congestion district” I am with you.

    As I said in my earlier post – these tolls work technically and they do reduce congestion. At least that’s true in the cases I have personally witnessed around the world.

    As I recall, the toll in London was implemented by the city of London. Singapore is a city-state with no equivalent in the US.
    I’d be thrilled if Fairfax County implemented congestion tolls and kept the money for transportation in the county. Or, the congestion toll could be implemented by a consortium of Northern Virginia counties and cities with strict revenue sharing agreements.

    But implemented by the state of Virginia? I just don’t trust the state politicians to keep their word. About anything.

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