Tunnel Vision: Stosch on Transportation

Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, one of the grandees of the state Senate, explained his thinking about transportation issues at a monthly meeting of the Goochland Republican committee. As reported by S.E. Warwick with The Goochland Courier, he noted quite correctly that the gas tax can’t keep up with the cost of maintaining state roads.

Maintenance costs are increasing by about 10 to 12 percent annually because each year many miles of new subdivision roads are added to the state system. Maintenance involves things like asphalt, derived from oil and concrete, whose prices are rising well ahead of inflation, said the senator.

Polls have shown that the public doesn’t favor any of the funding options proposed by lawmakers this year: raising the sales tax on cars and trucks, raising the wholesale fuel tax, or diverting funds from the General Assembly. “Those are about the only three options,” said Stosch. “That means that the general public is not prepared for any type of solution in a framework we can work with.”

Those are the only three options? Egads, does the good Senator live on the same planet as the rest of us? Unless S.E. Warwick omitted parts of his speech, Stosch did not talk about congestion pricing. He did not talk about privatization or tolls. He did not talk about proffers, impact fees or Community Development Authority bonds. And that’s just on the revenue side. He didn’t talk either about managing the demand for road improvements through land use reforms, car pooling, vans or Bus Rapid Transit — although he did mention high-speed rail and noted, correctly, its high up-front cost.

Tellingly, Stosch never even mentioned the House of Delegates legislative package that would have, among other things, curtailed the admittance of subdivision roads into the state system — one of the reasons he cites for rising maintenance costs!

There is an wide array of thinking about transportation that Sen. Stosch apparently has never tapped into. Sadly, his tunnel vision seems shared by many, though fortunately not all, of his peers in the Senate.

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17 responses to “Tunnel Vision: Stosch on Transportation”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    As I related recently, the technology exists right now to do congestion pricing…with minimal costs as VDOT has
    already got the computer infrastructure.. in place for EZ-pass type tolls.

    How about…two pilot projects… one in NoVa and one in HR… to get the ball rolling.

    That would help answer some questions for those who have concerns.. especially about public acceptance… and might open the door a little for those whose mindsets is tax and spend…

    I’m disappointed in the Senate. I know guys in the Senate who are involved with Transportation… and apparently Chichester has them stifled … because they DO know about the toll issue as they are the same guys who delt with the PPTA law…. What did they do??? write and pass the law.. thinking is was a separate deal from taxes?

    and I’m frustrated with anyone who says taxes are the right answer and tolls are not – but don’t have the guts to follow up with actions.. Talk-the-talk.. then bail when it comes to walk-the-walk…

    either .. do something on that pot… or vamboose

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    you both make a good case for user fees. Let the person causing the problem, pay for the problem. If I want to drive a car, tax the car and fuel to fix the roads, If I want to take a bus, collect the cost in the fare box, but if I want to walk, pleae don’t affix a fee to the tennis shoes. Yes we have a problem-neglect for 20 years. Land use measures wont make any differnce to my commute today- maybe in 15-20 years. Taxes are the answer, its just where you affix them.

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Land use measures can stop the bleeding from becoming worse. They won’t fix anyone’s commute, but they could prevent a 50-minute commute from becoming a 75-minute commute in some instances.

    It is insanity to take a bad situation and make it worse. If higher taxes would fix problems (say make your 50-minute commute, a 25-minute commute), many people would likely bite their cheek and say raise the tax. But transportation in Virginia is not about moving people and goods; it’s all about fostering more development. Enriching a few at the cost to all.

    I’ve proposed for a long time that VDOT offer a service level agreement for its projects. For $XXX M, Road X’s level of service will become no worse than C and it will stay that way for 8 years.

    It’s not just roads. Supporters of the Silver Line are beginning to admit that the project will likely cost well more than $4 B to build. Moreover, they concede that a significant portion of those added costs must be borne by Fairfax County, as the landowners will simply not increase their liability to cover all of the costs. Guess who will be left holding the bag? Residential and small business taxpayers. Why, not for traffic relief. Just so West Group and others can increase density and reap windfalls.

    The solution might well be for Fairfax County to downzone Tysons, instead of upzoning. It’s legal. Read my blog entries this week.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT – thanks for explaining the downzoning law in your blog.. good stuff!

  5. If you prevent subdivision streets from becoming part of the state system, won’t that make it difficult to also mandate more connectivity by providing cut-throughs?

  6. If you are going to charge fees for upzoning, you had better be prepared to pay fees for downzoning.

  7. I’m all in favor of user pays, just be aware what that will do to Metro and Transit. A lot of it would shut down under a user pays fare schedule.

    That’s going to make it a lot harder to walk to work in your untaxed tennis shoes. In any case, that walk to work is going to need a lot higher density to support it, and who is going to pay for all that new and/or refurbished infrastructure?

    It won’t be the commuters or their employers, because they won’t be able to afford the $15.00 toll to get to work.

    And while you are slapping on user fees, how about a user fee for all those people who want to preserve their viewscape?

  8. “Taxes are the answer, its just where you affix them.”


    Tax that man behind the tree.


  9. In Michigan, voters aproved a huge bond issue to raise money for roads for the purpose of relieving congestion.

    In England voters approved something like 10 million British Pounds to be used solely for alternative methods of reducing congestion, some of them purely experimental.

    Whether you are old school or new school, at least some people recognize that money is a necessary lubricant.

    Tolls and user pays are only a partly correct solution. It is going to take wider participation to raise the money we need, and will need.

    Then, of course, there is the money we have needed and didn’t raise. We can’t very well blame that or affix the price for that on new development.

    Yes, it is true, the technology exists for EZ pass, etc. But you still need to deploy it to the new locations, and it is going to cost money that comes right out of the toll booth and goes into some private company pocket instead of where it will do the most good.

  10. “transportation in Virginia is not about moving people and goods; it’s all about fostering more development. Enriching a few at the cost to all. “

    I agree, up to a point. If we are really enriching a few at the expense of many, then we are not charging eneough for development. In those areas. In other areas we may equally be enriching many at the expense of a few by PREVENTING development.

    So, where is the balance point?

    If we are willing to (help, because it isn’t the total cost)pay for Metro by taxing developers then we ought to be equally willing to (help) pay for roads through the contribution of developers.

    But we ought to realize that they are not the ONLY benficiaries.

    We can argue user pays or developer pays until we are blue in the face. But anonymous hit the nail, it is going to take taxes (even if you call them tolls, or user fees), and it is a question of balancing who pays which taxes.

    The alternative is that we do nothing and we all pay the congestion tax, even if we are the ones smugly walking to work in our non-taxed tennis shoes.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    take a look at this:

    “Indianapolis to seek investor toll bids for Indianapolis belt, I-69 no toll

    Indiana Gov Mitch Daniels says his administration will seek toll bids to build a 120km to 130km (75 to 80 mile) Indiana Commerce Connector tollway on the eastern and southern fringes of Indianapolis – tentatively estimated to cost $1.0b to $1.5b.

    Daniels said that INDOT believes, preliminarily, that the value of the INCC concession will not only pay for construction but generate a concession fee which can be used toward funding other projects, like I-69.”


    So .. in Indiana.. they think that not only will they get enough money from a toll road to pay for THAT toll road but they will get enough in addition to build another road.

    This is not pie in the sky.. as they have already negotiated another toll road that also pays concessions…

    Ray – you’re NOT taxing the guy behind the tree.. you are, in fact, specifically charging the guy in his car using that road INSTEAD of taxing the guy behind that proverbial tree. When do folks get these misleading concepts from to start with?

    And the answer is quite simple – if you’re not taking in enough money on one road…start charging on other roads until you bring in enough money to pay for all those roads … and NOT have to tax any guy behind any tree … only those who actually use the facilities.

    Why not let people each make their own individual choices as to HOW to spend THEIR money for transportation?

    and if you must tax.. then do it locally by referendum and DON’T send it to Richmond for mischief.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: local subdivision roads

    the point is that localities become responsible for WHY they need roads in the first place and more importantly who pays for them.

    “cut-throughs save money because they eliminate the need for multiple curb cuts and multiple signal lights.

    right now.. if residents of a subdivision show up and opposed a cut-through.. the BOS will bail… on the issue because it cost them nothing.. and instead it is a VDOT cost.

    What if it was a locality cost? Would they then tell the subdivision residents that if they want a separate entrance that they’ll have to pay for it?

    If a locality .. had to pay the extra cost for inefficient subdivision roads, curb cuts and signals rather than dumping it on VDOT – they would quickly figure out that dumb things will cost THEM money and when they then go to taxpayers to get more money.. there WILL be consequences.

    The system we have now… where localities make land-use decisions without regard to costs… encourages waste and inefficient land-use practices – and is at the core of why VDOT is unable to fund new construction.. they’re being overwhelmed by the financial consequences of subdivision roads… sucking up whatever little money they have.

    I’ve heard our own BOS over and over.. ask themselves if something was a “good idea” .. and the response is..”it’s not our problem.. it’s VDOTs)… multiply that across all jurisdictions in Va and you get an idea of the dimension of the problem.

  13. “…will not only pay for construction but generate a concession fee which can be used toward funding other projects, like I-69…”

    Yeah, right.

    So, what happened to user pays? Now we no only have to pay but pay for others.

    What happened to developers pay?

    What happened to existing property owners pay for their increase in value?

    What happened to prospective property owners paying in advance for their increase in value?

    What happened to existing property owners paying for their increase in value due to denying further growth?

    What happened to having the requirement to pay having some connection to the ability to pay?

  14. We don’t know who actually benefits from the facilites. We barely know who actually uses them, and why.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – the concept is roads that are regional or statewide built and maintained with user fees.

    Local roads – built/maintained by localities using a variety of financial options that would include,
    proffers, impact fees, CDAs, HOAs and property taxes. The “how” would be a conversation between elected
    leaders and residents who vote.

    The ability to pay in both examples would be handled just like any other product or service purchased by someone on public assistance. They get a monthly stipend – it could be adjusted to include tolls.

    The reason I pointed out the Indiana situation is that in that State – they not only expect the new road and it’s maintenance to be fully paid for by the private entity BUT they EXPECT additional money – concessions.

    The point here is that this is NOT what we are hearing in Virginia from VDOT. They are telling us that we cannot build similiar roads via PPTA (like 460 or I-95) without additional taxpayer monies.

    Why is this? What are such roads in Indiana.. lock/stock/barrel + additional money and in Va… very different?

    I’m not necessarily advocating that if we ended up with concession fees that we spend it on a particular thing – YET – but choices would be:

    1 – limit to the mainline road and it’s ramps 2. – adjacent roads 3. – all roads and 4. transit.

    we’re a long way from making these choices because we’ve yet to decide to move ahead on toll roads… in part – because VDOT, by saying tax monies were needed… has paused the concept..

  16. “Ray – the concept is roads that are regional or statewide built and maintained with user fees.”

    If they are regional or statewide built, how in God’s name do we know who the users are, and why do we care?

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    a Eureka moment!

    We DON’T care who they are – as long as each one pays for his/her use of the facility.

    Why doe it matter who they are?

    Do you think the electric company cares who you are – as long as you pay your bill?

    Imagine if we started off with the concept that electricity is “so vital” (like the road argument) that it needs to be “free” to everyone (so we don’t have Lexus divides with “users”) – and we’d have a state agency to build power plants and transmission lines.

    Can you imagine the outcome?

    It’s easy to do – really – look at our “free” road system.

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