Delegate looks forward to receiving Boardâ€™s suggestions for locality and state to work together
Transportation and Safety
Let me start by thanking you for the honor of serving and representing you at the state capitol. In January when I was elected to serve in the House of Delegates for the 97th District, I invited all seven county administrators and board members representing parts of the district to meet with me during Session. Since that invitation, six county administrators accepted my offer and either met with me at the Capitol during the Virginia Association of Countiesâ€™ â€œDay On The Hillâ€ or more locally in the district. These conversations were valuable and allowed me to understand long standing county issues and confirm in my mind where to prioritize state involvement. I have also learned a great deal about newer issues affecting the district.
Later next month, I am pleased to sit down with the Caroline County Administrator and various members of the county board to listen and learn. I look forward to this meeting because it is a good time to put politics aside and allow local representatives, your Board of Supervisors, to update me on what is going on in Caroline. I hope this September meeting is the beginning of a good faith process for partnership where in the end citizens are best served. Neither side alone can make Caroline perfect but together we can make it better. That is my goal and the goal of my colleagues Dels. Wittman and Orrock.
One topic of general conversation will be transportation. I am convinced that VDOT must make improvements not only state-wide but also in our area. Reform means first addressing institutional roadblocks. For example, the legislature appropriates funds to the Commonwealth Transportation Board which then sets priorities for spending. This Board is inherently political as gubernatorial appointees. We need to return VDOT to the professionals from the top down. I applaud the local engineers, who are real professionals and do a solid job of setting priorities and managing resources left to them. Unfortunately, politics in the central office either wastes your tax dollar or often handcuffs their ability to make things run more efficiently. Road building is important but maintenance is too. We must also look for ways to enhance safety upgrades at interchanges without compromising and burdening local businesses. As your state delegate, I place a priority on public safety in fact I was recently voted both the State Police and Sheriffâ€™s Associationsâ€™ â€œRookie of the Year.â€ But we must also safeguard predictable and consistent streams of revenue so dollars can be returned to our area for transportation without raising your taxes. On that note I plan to introduce legislation in 2007 for a constitutional amendment for a â€œlock-boxâ€ to protect transportation funds and restore trust to the Trust Fund. While this past session was a success in that there will be no new state taxes this biennium, to protect your pocket books, the state risked not passing a budget to search for additional road funding. Right now the state budget an additional $300 million plus to transportation this fall. I hope the success of the General Assembly in holding the line on a tax increase while finding more money for transportation has dispelled the myth that Virginianâ€™s must pay higher taxes for road improvements. It simply isnâ€™t so.
Recently a public hearing was held on the Route 652 interchange in Carmel Church. For years this interchange has seen accidents and other traffic problems. Consequently VDOT proposed a redesign and relocation of Route 652. Based on my conversations with local law enforcement I believe that something needs to be done to accommodate traffic needs as well as improve safety at this highly traveled interchange. However the current design may put road funding at risk. One particular locally owned business is reliant on quick and convenient access and egress to its property and a convenient access should be maintained for a variety of reasons which include but are not limited to the economic wellbeing of this part of central Virginia. Our highway system is important but it makes little sense to attempt to fix roads or intersections when that activity could have the collateral effect of reducing revenue to the state and county. In tax revenue alone, this business will pay approximately $96,000 in property tax to Caroline County, $87,000 in Business license tax to Caroline County, and nearly $190,000 in meals taxes to Caroline County. It also pays over Â¼ million dollars in sales tax to Caroline and the state and over $3 million in gas tax to the state which also aids Caroline. These figures are significant. As a state representative to Caroline County, I know first hand that locally owned and operated independent businesses are an asset to the county, to its economic health and also to the tourism industry in Virginia. Right now in special session when the legislature is currently examining ways to improve transportation and searching for the funds which will be likewise required, I urge VDOT to consider how their plan makes accommodations and avoids reducing the amount of funds the state can put back into their coffers for road maintenance and construction. Countless commuters up and down the I-95 corridor take advantage of their amenities and by so doing invest real dollars in Virginia. These funds should be captured and invested locally. One intersection that can readily be approved is Signboard Road at Route 30 near the new State Fair. The safety concerns on Route 30 from tractor trailers hauling logs and trash are real. Currently the Route 30 improvement estimates by VDOT are approximately $4 million more than what will be needed to complete the project. I will ask that the local residency and district administrators consider including these improvements as part of the larger project.
My final comment on transportation is related to how it is about more than more money. State and local officials need to be creative and find solutions that are efficient. This includes considering multi-modal means of moving people and examining opportunities for commuter rail in Caroline. I look forward to listening to the Boardâ€™s ideas on this subject. I have worked with VRE during the 2006 regular session as well as earlier in a professional capacity. I know them to be good people who are interested in getting cars off the roads and freeing our system. I have talked a lot about my priorities. I look forward to listening to your Board but more importantly to you. Please do not hesitate to contact me at my office at 804-730-3737 or by email at DelCPeace@house.state.va.us. In another edition I will share with you my ideas for providing from the state, tools to help local governments manage growth and rampant development. I believe localities must consider how these decisions greatly impact the stateâ€™s ability to fund transportation as well as other core services like education and increased support for the Sheriffâ€™s department.