What the MSM Neglected to Tell You About the Governor’s Transportation Bill

Any Virginian who reads the newspapers knows that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s transportation bill will raise roughly $1 billion a year in new taxes because that’s what the newspapers have reported. The Mainstream Media narrative about the transportation debate is all about taxes and spending.

It startled me to actually read the governor’s press release. Not only does the legislation provide for tax increases, lo and behold, it contains a number of noteworthy tweaks to HB 3202, last year’s omnibus transportation finance and reform bill that overhauled the way state and local government planned for and administered transportation and land use.

It’s not as if the Kaniacs buried these elements of the proposed legislation in the press release. As the governor is quoted as saying in the second paragraph:

Since January of 2006, I have worked closely with the General Assembly to improve the coordination of transportation and land use, to provide needed funding and budget reforms to how we spend transportation dollars, and to improve accountability and efficiency at VDOT and the other transportation agencies. The legislation I am introducing will continue those reforms. …”

How so? As the press release elucidates, the bill:

  • Incentivizes more efficient land use patterns by providing dedicated funding for transportation improvements in urban development areas;
  • Provides start-up grant funding to increase passenger rail service through the Transportation Change Fund;
  • Clarifies local government flexibility to use secondary and urban road funding for transit projects;
  • Provides incentives for cities and towns to take responsibility for their road construction programs; and
  • Provides funds for innovative public-private technology projects to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion on existing roads.

Each of these measures is significant. While I remain totally opposed to the tax aspects of the governor’s bill, which ignore user-pays set of principles, I am compelled to acknowledge that Gov. Kaine accompanies his revenue-raising measures with reforms to ensure that the money is better spent.

Let us hope that Senate Democrats, who have tax ideas of their own, don’t lose sight of these measures. Moreover, let us hope that House Republicans, who were the architects of the legislation that the governor seeks to improve, also take up these issues. Too bad the public doesn’t have a clue. The only voices heard in this debate, it appears likely, will be those of the professional lobbyists.

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  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    stirring the pot here:

    …”House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said the General Assembly shouldn’t be talking about raising the state’s tax burden as the country struggled through a sharp economic downturn. Howell said lawmakers should focus on coming up with regional solutions and on innovative techniques.

    Howell and Del. Phil Hamilton, R-Newport News, have been touting the potential benefits that could be gleaned from concessions. Those are where the state leases tolling rights to private companies for decades, in exchange for an upfront chunk of cash and highway upgrades.

    The House GOP is also stressing that the state needs to act more aggressively on enacting new high-tech tolls to ensure that drivers who use the system the most are the ones footing the bill for improvements.

    Local planners and transportation improvement advocates say they are expecting to charge tolls on almost every big bridge and tunnel project in Hampton Roads. But tolls alone aren’t enough to pay for projects that cost billions of dollars.

    For example, when two private companies submitted proposals to build the oft-discussed third crossing of Hampton Roads, both plans called for toll revenues — and more that $1 billion in state tax money.”


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Pardon my cynicism, but many of these provisions might also be designed to help divert even more money to build Dulles Rail for Tysons Corner landowners, many of whom gave big bucks to both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

    “Incentivizes more efficient land use patterns by providing dedicated funding for transportation improvements in urban development areas.”

    “Provides start-up grant funding to increase passenger rail service through the Transportation Change Fund.”

    “Clarifies local government flexibility to use secondary and urban road funding for transit projects”

    From talking to people at the last meeting of the Dulles Rail Corridor Association, I heard that, with recent increases in the prices of construction materials, the $5 billion figure for building Dulles Rail may be way too low. The project is likely still in jeopardy.

    Couple this with the insane levels of density for Tysons that are being bandied about (say as high as 177 million square feet from today’s 45 million), manipulation of the legislative process should not be ignored.

    Virginia needs an adequate public facilities law.


  3. Groveton Avatar

    Kaine is trying. He’s just working with a real weak sister in the General Assembly. Meanwhile, Sen. Obama is touting a transportation infrastructure development program that sounds like the WPA. So, taxes will be raised by Pres. Obama, road construction will be funded by the federal government and the “descendants of Pocohontas” will be able to keep alive the illusion that they prevented higher taxes for new roads in NoVA. A bigger buffoon show – I’ve never seen. One can only hope that the Virginia Republicans lose even more ground in the next election.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Kaine’s performance has been mixed. For me, the real test will be whether or not VDOT skewers Fairfax County’s traffic study for Tysons Corner. All of the facts are likely to indicate that supersizng Tysons will be a traffic disaster. But saying that will make it very difficult for the landowners to get their Manhattan-style density. A lot of those people gave Kaine significant sums.

    I do not know how VDOT will go. But I do know that some landowners have been lobbying both Kaine and Pierce Homer. My final views on Kaine’s administration will likely turn on the 527 study for Tysons. It will tell whether Kaine is principled or just another Mark Warner. If I had to bet, I’d bet that Kaine sticks with his principles, but there’s lots of money pushing in the other direction.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    VDOT, as an institution, long after Kaine is gone has got some skin on the table in terms of credibility.

    Across the state, every development that gets reviewed by VDOT is going to be challenged if they muff Tysons.

    A VDOT “review” will become known as something “money can buy”.

    Further – traffic projections are fairly standard industry practices these days.

    The opponents are going to be able to hire a reputable firm to challenge anything that appears “sketchy”.

    Access Management – give them credit for this… in fact, it might be something they were headed for anyhow but needed a Gov to stand back and let it happen.

    UDAs – If Spotsylvania is any example – they are leery… because, in their opinion, the State has already reneged on funding obligations.. and they have wondered out loud – “what happens if we do a rezone and the State reneges on the money?

    Another policy change -that – that specifies whether or not a subdivision road is essentially a dead-end private road or a road that “connects” – or in short, intra-parcel connection…

    this will have an effect on new subdivision proposals and will give localities a little more backbone when trying to negotiate connectivity.

    There is no question though – if VDOT is going to be reviewing the larger mixed-use development proposals in terms of traffic generation – if they do it right and they are trusted for their work – it could empower the localities in negotiating for transportation improvements from mixed-use developments.

    Some counties are already requiring major transportation studies and CDAs to pay for major transportation improvements.

    I’m not sure how much of this is Kaine’s original ideas and how much was “in the pipeline” but it is clear that a Gov that was more developer friendly might have told VDOT to shelf these things…

    and I’ll take a swipe here…

    these things are a bigger “contribution” than a car tax rebate that screwed up the entire budget for the follow-on Gov.

    We ended up with a budget crisis and the guy that caused it is now claiming to have been the guy who rolled back taxes and is implicating his successor for raising taxes.

    It’s hard to know the entire truth but it’s pretty clear – Warner did not leave a budget crisis and it’s also pretty clear that if progress on transportation does not happen – that it is not because Kaine was asleep at the switch.

    I don’t blame TMT for being skeptical but I think Kaine is dealing as straight-up as any Gov in recent memory.

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Everywhere I go, I see places making more progress on transportation than Virginia. In Amsterdam I see bicycles everywhere. This is more than a few people riding in the road. This is a whole system of bicycle lanes, places where bicycles can be locked (for free) etc. I walked through one of the commuter train stations on my way to and from work. Row after row after row of locked bicycles. People ride from their home to the train station and then lock up and take the train to work. Amazing and (apparently) quite inexpensive. Amsterdam also appears to have a “clear edge”. The development just stops and the farmland begins. Like many places in Europe, this shift from high density to low density is striking.

    London has transportation problems on steriods. Over the last three days I’ve taken a car, several buses, a cab, the tube, walked and used a commuter boat. I’ve talked to countless people about the congestion toll (often called a congestion tax). It seems to me that London is working hard but losing ground none the less. The congestion around Trafalguar Square is intense. And the prices are unfathomable. I looked at a 3 bedroom mini-townhouse in Chelsea this weekend (just for fun). It was priced at 4.2M pounds. I asked what it would cost to rent a place like that and was told 10,000 – 15,000 per month (pounds). So, at a rough rate of 2 pounds : 1 dollar, think in terms of $25,000 per month. A small apartment will lease for 600 pounds per week or 2600 pounds a month or anout $5,000 per month. I know that Chelsea is a nice part of London but it’s very expensive all over. I saw a bus that was advertising for bus drivers – the ad said the pay was 500 pounds a week (including overtime). That’s less (before taxes) than the rent of a small apartment in Chelsea. So – where do the bus drivers who drive the busses in Chelsea live? In the suburbs. Living in core London seems to be for the very rich and those who somehow acquired and kept rent controlled apartments. There is a government effort at affordable housing. You can apply of you are in one of many “key jobs” – teacher, policeman, etc However, nothing is perfect as the following attests:

    “The London boroughs are also responsible for housing those in need of social housing within their borough. They own and maintain more than half a million houses and flats – one in six of the total number of homes in London. The demand for council housing is high, and priority is given to those in most need.

    Waiting lists for housing are usually long. Usually, councils and local housing association use the same housing register or waiting list although some housing associations have separate waiting lists as well as, or instead of using the council’s housing register.

    The London boroughs are also responsible for paying Housing Benefit.”.

    Affordable housing has not been achieved by clever zoning. It is not the result of high density living. It has not occurred through the use of functional settlement patterns. It is a social service funded by the taxpayers. And this is one of the reasons that I will be voting Democrat more and more often. The Republicans have become the party of the “quick fix”. The truth is that the widening wealth gap in the US is causing problems at all levels (affordable housing being only one). The Republican answer is to suggest anything and everything except a tax system that levels the playing field. The Elephant Clan has schemes for zoning, schemes for tolls, schemes for everything. Everything, that is, except a scheme for correcting the absurd polarization of wealth in the US. The answer is simple – you must tax the relatively wealthy more than they are currently being taxed. That money must be transferred to the relatively poor. And, in a state that adheres to a strict definition of Dillon’s Rule, that means the state raising the taxes.

  7. Groveton Avatar

    Sorry … typo … should have been $2 per 1 pound. All calculations are right beyond this error.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    Soon to be president Obama speaking to state governors:

    Obama said he would work with them on policies that would help, including a plan to spend billions in taxpayer dollars to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects that could create jobs and improve transportation routes. Obama asked if they have projects that were ready to go if they had the money, and there were nods and calls of “Absolutely!” around the table.

    “Within three months, you could start putting people back to work,” he said.

    West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin responded: “I think we could put a lot of people back to work in one month. We’re ready.”

    I assume that RoVA Republicans will continue to insist that they do not need new roads and do not want new roads. Or, once these federal monies start to flow, will RoVA Republicnas decide that they really did need new roads all along?

    Either way – we are all going to pay more in taxes and build more roads for transportation.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t see how you can support transit and passenger rail initiatives without new taxes. User pays won’t make these things fly.

    It is the same problem with APF: if you wait until you have the money or until you find a user willing to pay, it will never happen.

    You need a plan and you need money, and that means taxes.


  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If NoVa gets a 1% sales tax – tell me who decides how much of that 1% is for roads-only?

    If a majority of NoVa citizens believe that most of that 1% should go for Metro and Bus Transit then how does that figure into “user pays”?

    Inquiring minds would like to know.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton: I think that you are underestimating the political power of many key stakeholders within the Democratic Party tent who do NOT want to see new road construction in major metro areas. There are many who would not build any more major roads or even expand them in metro D.C. The name of the game is transit, bikes, walkable communities, etc. Many of these people don’t like all of the cars on the road and have no interest in improving your commute. Buy a condo in Tysons and move your business there. After all, when the cost of Dulles Rail skyrockets to $12 billion, you’ll get something for your money. Ha, ha.

    Also, most target the rich tax schemes rarely touch those at the top. They wind up nailing creative people on their way up or who will earn well, but never at the highest levels. Look at people such as Warren Buffett, who argues for higher taxes especially on estates. He’s purchased a number of businesses at lower prices from heirs who needed to pay the estate tax. Benevolent liberal or self-serving manipulator?

    Ray: If APF were in place, those who wanted to build would find ways to fund the infrastructure or they wouldn’t build. I also suspect that most residents of Fairfax County wouldn’t complain if little more were built over the next five years.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “If a majority of NoVa citizens believe that most of that 1% should go for Metro and Bus Transit then how does that figure into “user pays”?”

    It doesn’t.

    But IF a majority of nova citizens were a) able to decide that and b) they actually did decide that, then you would have to believe they did so because they figure their benefits are worth the cost, even if they are not transit users themselves.

    That is a much stronger argument than simply saying that users should pay.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “If NoVa gets a 1% sales tax – tell me who decides how much of that 1% is for roads-only?”

    If it is a sales tax,who cares how much of it is for roads only. The point ought to be to decide how to spend that money best, whether that means roads or other purposes. Best, in this case ought to mean whatever increases sales, because that is how you get more money to spend on transportation.

    The question of Who makes that decisions brings us right back to a question of whether the allocation system is broken.

    But, you face that problem no matter what the funding source is or what the benefit stream is.

    Somebody is going to set the allowable level of mercury emissions or the next transportation project. No matter what those decisions are, in our society someone will be vocally unhappy about the decision. They might just be unreasoanble, but they might have a point.

    I don’t think we have the correct social legal or administrative tools to determine when someone is being unreasonable. If the costs of meeting their demands exceeds the value of meeting their demands, then they are being unreasonable. Also if the costs are allocated unfairly.

    All that means is that you cannot claim benefits based on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but right now, we just dont have the studies in place that can help us make definitive decisions.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    “If APF were in place, those who wanted to build would find ways to fund the infrastructure or they wouldn’t build.”


    And I believe that IS the whole point. Therefore I beleive the APF idea is fundamentally dishonest. We say we are not opposed to growth, just growth without APF, but it just isn’t true. What we want is no growth, and a way to get off the hook.

    We would get more traction and have more integrity if we just said we are opposed to growth, and be done with it.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry et all,

    The 1% sales tax would be used to fund the original projects in the six year plan that NVTA proposed that were put on hold

    And as Larry knows much of this can be traced to the TransAction 2030 plan and the Washingon DC area MPO

    Press Release


    List of Projects


    Notice there is a fairly complex mix of transit, road, multimodal, and ped/bike

    As an aside I personally feel there is not enough roads and too much of the other stuff

    Main website



  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, I don’t think that most people oppose growth per se, even in Fairfax County. The opposition comes because growth comes without the concomitant increases to infrastructure, but with developers’ schemes to raise taxes to keep their bandwagon rolling.

    If, for example, Tysons Corner can be urbanized without adding to traffic congestion, overwhelming parks and schools, or forcing up residential real estate taxes, many people would probably shrug their shoulders and say “go ahead.” But we all know from prior experience, that won’t happen. We’ll see growth, a declining standard of living and higher taxes.

    A real estate appraiser friend has told me that, for example, the value of SAIC’s property on Route 7 would increase by c. $200 million without the Company spending a nickel if large-scale increases in density are approved by the Fairfax County BoS. This is not a situation where SAIC would earn an additional $200 million by tearing down its existing building and constructing a new one. But, without spending a single dime on improving its real estate or adding to road, sewer, park or school capacity, the vote of the supervisors increases the value of such property by $200 million.

    But for that to happen, we’ll all see zoning changes that will make traffic much worse; much harder for local kids to get soccer or basketball practice time; increased real estate taxes to cover Dulles Rail cost overruns; etc. Under these circumstances, how could any rational person support more growth? Heads I win; tails you lose.

    This is not opposition to growth per se. It’s opposition to growth Fairfax County style. There’s a big difference.


  17. Anonymous Avatar


    Just curious what a better approach to growth look like in your opinion… both in general and specifically to Tysons


  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    NMM nailed it. The NVTA is the decision-maker and they have a fairly complex and deep list that will far outrun any 1% sales tax, at least in the near term.

    re: APF

    TMT nailed it.

    Growth.. that degrades quality of life for the existing residents is not growth that is going to happen with their acquiescence.

    LOSS – Level of Service Standards – are a recognized way for any development to disclose their impacts – not in terms of vague references but in real numbers.

    And those real numbers – translate into what it would take in real dollars to properly mitigate to maintain the existing LOS.

    It’s those numbers that the developers often say – is not their responsibility – and the citizens standard response is – “then tell us again why your development is a benefit to the existing community” – and the stock answer from the developers is to “grease” the skids at whatever level it takes to ignore the citizens questions.

    That’s the context for anti-growth sentiments.

    To ignore this is to invite more restrictions.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    “I don’t think that most people oppose growth per se, even in Fairfax County. ………………………We’ll see growth, a declining standard of living and higher taxes.”

    But we are not opposed to growth.

    We are only opposed to growth that makes things crowded and expensive. Which we all know is what always happens. so we are in favor of growth that doesn’t look like growth.

    In other words, no growth.

    Why not just say so? Oh, that’s right, you just did.

    Now that we agree we don’t like growth, whose growth shall we stunt first? How about if we start with the immigrants?


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton’s Post clearly show where no growth goes. A nice clear ege with small townhomes at $8.4 million.

    That, is why existing owners like no growth. They don’t have to do anything, and it turns into free money.

    Same as SAIC.


  21. Groveton Avatar

    “But for that to happen, we’ll all see zoning changes that will make traffic much worse; much harder for local kids to get soccer or basketball practice time; increased real estate taxes to cover Dulles Rail cost overruns; etc. Under these circumstances, how could any rational person support more growth? Heads I win; tails you lose.”.

    Nobody seems to want to endure the pain of growth. Growth stresses infrastructure and that stresses the citizens. Unfortunately, we have some issues:

    1. US population is growing. Need job growth.

    2. US paying more for oil. Need economic growth to offset economic loss to oil exporting nations.

    3. People living longer. Need economic gowth to pay for more “retirement years”.

    4. Demographic “bubble” entering the workforce as “echo boomers – baby boomer’s babies” start work. Really need more entry level jobs so this group can get started.

    5. Defecit – got to start bringing that down. Need economic growth to reduce deficit.

    I agree that “Fairfax County style growth” is a problem. However, that “style” is evidenced in lots of places – Orange County, CA – Denver, CO – Westchester County, NY.

    Growth is painful.

    Growth is necessary.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Quigley and Raphael add:
    “These figures show a clear positive relationship between the average price of a constant quality unit of housing and the degree of anti-growth regulation. Housing price and rental rates are roughly 30 to 50 percent higher in the most regulated cities relative to the least regulated cities. “


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Why does everyone assume growth needs to occur Fairfax County style? First, all new jobs need not be in Fairfax County.

    Instead of supporting the Dulles Rail scheme, Governor Kaine could have supported plans that would focus more job growth in Prince William, Stafford, Spotsylvania Counties. Many of the workers who will drive to an even bigger Tysons Corner live there. Instead of working to raid the US treasury to fund Dulles Rail, Senator John Warner could have worked to get federal agencies to have their contractors open more offices in Prince William, Stafford, Spotsylvania Counties. Of course the Tysons Corner landowners don’t own land in those counties and that’s what public policy in Virginia is all about. I guess that means that growth that happens where they don’t own land isn’t really growth. Three Card Monte.

    Second, Fairfax County could follow the intent of state law. “This chapter is intended to encourage localities to improve the public health, safety, convenience and welfare of its citizens and to plan for the future development of communities to the end that transportation systems be carefully planned; that new community centers be developed with adequate highway, utility, health, educational, and recreational facilities; that the need for mineral resources and the needs of agriculture, industry and business be recognized in future growth; that residential areas be provided with healthy surroundings for family life; that agricultural and forestal land be preserved; and that the growth of the community be consonant with the efficient and economical use of public funds.” “In addition to reviewing the comprehensive plan, the planning commission may make a study of the public facilities, including existing facilities, which would be needed if the comprehensive plan is fully implemented. The study may include estimations of the annual prospective operating costs for such facilities and any revenues, including tax revenues, that may be generated by such facilities. For purposes of the study, public facilities may include but need not be limited to water and sewer lines and treatment plants, schools, public safety facilities, streets and highways. The planning commission may forward the study to the local governing body or any other local, regional, state or federal agency that the planning commission believes might benefit from its findings.”

    Doesn’t sound like the General Assembly intended that every development proposal be accepted — even in Fairfax County. During the planning process, adequate public facilities are to be considered. But according to some, if we don’t develop Fairfax County without regard to the impact on current residents, the entire state economy will collapse. Why should Fairfax County residents pay a higher price to keep RoVA happy?

    Or our elected officials could do what their predecessors did: tell the landowners what they need to be willing to provide if they want their densities. Case in point: Reston Town Center. Senator Janet Howell regularly tells her constituents that when she was president of the Reston Citizens Association in the 1980s, her group demanded and the supervisors supported that $200 million be proffered for road improvements. Plus, an art center was funded as well. What’s $200 million worth today?

    Case number two. Jack Herrity demanded that the developers of Fair Lakes agree to pay for the construction of the Fairfax County Parkway – I-66 interchange. Jack told me one day at lunch that the key developer was so angry that he threw his coat on the floor and stomped on it. Herrity then said, if you want approval for your zoning application, you will build that interchange. The interchange was built and paid for by the developer. Jack’s dead, of course, but his son Pat will verify the truth of this story.

    Gee, the last time I looked Reston was still growing and Fair Lakes has not dried up. These unfair demands did not stop growth. RoVA continues to be subsidized by their jobs and taxes.

    I also suspect that there have been major payments extracted from development in places like Orange County, CA – Denver, CO – Westchester County, NY. But how can that be since Fairfax County hsa proven that development must be subsidized or it won’t happen?

    I wish I would have known you guys a few years ago. I had some stock that I would have sold you for $5 a share.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “Herrity then said, if you want approval for your zoning application, you will build that interchange. “

    Sounds a lot like blackmail. The FFX/I66 interchange serves more than just Fair Lakes users. The developers were right to be incensed.

    If we are going to have requirements for development they should be transparent, predictable, and fair.


  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Is there a thought that growth can be more than a zero sum game and actually be beneficial?

    let’s rephrase that…

    Are there SOME kinds of growth that are a net benefit to a community?


    Is it true that ALL growth is a benefit to the community?

    I’ll be even RH will say this statement is false.

    Somewhere between these two statements is growth that is not deemed beneficial to a community.

    In those cases, is a community allowed some degree of latitude in deciding what growth is beneficial to them and what is not?

    Notice, I did not say.. in the opinion of one guy.. like RH.. or a developer… I said.. the community.

    Bonus Question: How much involvement should the State (Gov Kaine, Watkins – no-mo-stinkin-proffers-minimal-impact-fees-only, have over a community that is demonstrating NIMBY leanings .. turning down even “good” growth?

    I ask the bonus question for a number of reasons.

    One.. to jiggle Ray’s gizzard.

    but also to note that Jim Bacon lauds the enlightened approach of the gov incentivizing density while TMT ….rolls his eyes…and Groveton laments the death (or dearth?) of common sense.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, I’ve long blogged that a fair system needs to be designed to handle development contributions towards infrastructure. I’d support cost-based impact fees similar to those that are used in many states. But even proffer targets can be made fair to all parties. Prince William County conducts a periodic cost study for its targets. As land costs decreased, those lower costs were put into the study.

    But if the alternative is development pays little or nothing towards public facilities, I think many people will continue to oppose development.

    And when markets are strong, the costs are passed along to homebuyers. But so what? In strong markets, sellers get to pass along their costs plus in any event. If a builder can sell a house for $500 K, the house will be sold for $500 K regardless of the builder’s costs. In a down market, where the same house draws only $350 K, the proffer/impact fee costs may not be recovered in full. But neither may the builder recover all of his materials or labor costs.

    We need to find a public policy solution that prevents development from being a win-lose situation to one where everyone benefits or is at least held harmless.


  27. Groveton Avatar

    “Or our elected officials could do what their predecessors did: tell the landowners what they need to be willing to provide if they want their densities. Case in point: Reston Town Center. Senator Janet Howell regularly tells her constituents that when she was president of the Reston Citizens Association in the 1980s, her group demanded and the supervisors supported that $200 million be proffered for road improvements. Plus, an art center was funded as well. What’s $200 million worth today?”.

    I could not agree more.

    Reston works.

    And Reston is in Fairfax County.

    So, I am a bit confused about the “Fairfax County Style Development” term. When that term is used, does it imply Tysons Corner or Reston?

    And Reston has grown and continues to grow. Major residential and commercial space is being opened. Is that sprawl?

    About one month ago, I list the 10 “edge cities” I thought had the best quality of life. Reston was right there on my list. So, what’s it going to take to keep building more Restons and fewer Tysons Corners?

  28. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, Regarding your observations about Reston… Reston *does* work better than most places (not all, but most) in Fairfax County. You ask if the development around Reston constitutes “sprawl.” I cannot comment about the development on the fringes of the the planned area, but the original Reston (and the Reston Town Center) is *not* sprawl.

    Indeed, one of EMR’s sayings that I have quoted the most often over the years is this: If Fairfax County had Reston-style human settlement patterns, it could fit into one third of the county. Reston development is more compact and higher density than Fairfax County overall but, as you observe, it’s probably one of the more livable places there.

    Why is Reston more livable? From my limited observations as an occasional outside visitor, I’d say that there is more mixed use… greater connectivity between the pieces… less wasted space… And most importantly, more “balance” of jobs, houses and amenities at the neighborhood level.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    Development Fairfax Style refers to Tysons Corner and not Reston. In years past, the Fairfax County BoS was much more aggressive on land use issues. Take a look at some of the Virginia Supreme Court cases — many involve Fairfax County’s attempt to place a lid on unrealistic growth. They won some and lost some.

    But today’s board (or at least the last BoS) hardly ever bucks any development proposal — except from small builders who often get a trip through the wringer. But Tysons may be so far off the wall that the BoS has to tamp it down.

    Reston is a much better place than Tysons will ever be. One reason is that it started with a single landowner. Much easier to reach consensus. The various Tysons landowners are beginning to fight among themselves as to whose land bears burdens of schools, parks, roads, etc. and what do they get in return. Fair questions. But the “solution” seems to be “let’s ignore the tough questions. Let’s not address the location of any public facilities and just give everyone more density.” That’s not planning. It’s stupidity, at taxpayer expense.

    Reston also had the advantage of starting as dirt instead of an already developed area. See comment above.

    The existing residents of Reston were heavily involved in the planning for Reston Town Center, similar to what occurred with the Rosslyn Ballston corridor in Arlington. The processes were sometimes ugly, but there was consensus at the end. But Tysons, on the other hand, purposely attempted to keep out citizen input — because it is contrary the desires of the landowners for maximum density on the backs of everyone else.

    I have, however, begun to hear some concerns that Reston Town Center is becoming too canyon-like. Even taller buildings are being constructed, which may exceed the height and size that people really want to see. Again, it’s that balance that seems to elude Fairfax County.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Dont want to pile on too much but in summary why Reston works and Tysons doesn’t

    Reston has

    Planning from day one
    City street grid system
    Multiple housing types
    Good mix of Residential, Commerical, and Business

    Tysons has

    No planning from day one
    No City street grid system
    Too much Business and commercial and not enough residential
    Very Expensive Land

    Because of the deficiencies in Tysons you have

    Major bottlenecks and traffic nightmares
    Expensive housing because of high land costs and a limited supply of housing


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Mapquest Reston and show me the grid street system.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    There’s Reston and there’s Reston. I think that most people are thinking of Reston Town Center that does have a grid of streets. Much of the remaining parts of Reston do not, obviously.

    Query: Would more people be better off in the event that we gave up on Tysons and devoted the public resources to Reston, Herdon, Springfield (for BRAC)? Would taxpayers get a better return on their money?

    I can hear the Tysons Corner landowners howling now. “We are the economic engine and we’ve played the political contribution game. It would be unfair to dump us now.


  33. Groveton Avatar

    First – welcome back to Nova Middle Man and NoVA Scout. It’s good to see some “core NoVA” people back on the Rebellion. It was getting lonely as TMT and I battled the “descendants of Pocohontas” by ourselves. Sometimes, when I looked down on the footprints of this blog – I only saw one set of prints. I told TMT that I was stunned that he would abandon me. He told me that he was carrying me during those times.

    I think Springfield is more broken than Tysons. However, be that as it may, Tyson’s is too big an investment to abandon. TMT – you don’t like the Tyson’s plan. What do you like – plain abandonment?

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    What would I do about Tysons? First, I’d like our officials to admit that the Task Force’s efforts have been a farce. This is not planning. Then I’d determine what it would cost to build the public facilities that would be needed just to permit growth of Tysons to the 78 million square feet that would be permitted under the existing 94 Comp Plan, as adjusted for the 4th station. I think that those steps would provide a sensible place for further discussion.

    Also, I’d look at what Tysons might be with moving rail back to the DTR median with a single and affordable stop at Tysons and supporting and circulating transit within Tysons.

    That’s where I’d start.


  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “I’d look at what Tysons might be with moving rail back to the DTR median with a single and affordable stop at Tysons and supporting and circulating transit within Tysons. “

    Me too.

    I’ll bet it isn’t even on the table at the “task force”.

    It’s hard to find the right answer if you have already decided what it is.


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