Two Roads Diverged and It Made All the Difference

A singer once crooned “Life is a highway; I wanna ride it all night long.” Truth is that many Virginians feel like they spend most of their life on that highway sitting all day and night. And this is a shame. As a result, husbands spend less time with wives and parents lose time with children. Businesses also suffer and therefore consumers end up paying the price. Astonishingly in spite of the current state of affairs Virginia was ranked the No. 1 state in the country for doing business. This recognition belongs to the hard working men and women of this Commonwealth. It also does not change the fact that the transportation structure must be addressed. Issues of easing congestion, improving safety, maintaining our existing infrastructure and accelerating the flow of goods through our road system remain of paramount importance to me and my colleagues in the House of Delegates. The road to reform is just as bumpy as some interstate lanes. Challenges exist because of regional differences but challenges are actually opportunities to engage in lively and thoughtful debate. Merits of new revenue measures to fund transportation were considered and alternatives presented. We proposed a strong reform legislative bill package that looks outside the box. Instead positions on “transportation” have been used to justify new taxes whose dollars would flow elsewhere. I am committed to protecting funding for our area. Virginia cannot pave or pay its way out and tax increases are not a viable or sensible option. During this special session we aggressively pushed for comprehensive reform which included new money but not from tax increases.

Modernization and an overhaul of local road building must occur. Virginia from the top down must directly tie land use planning to transportation. In the spirit of helping solve local problems locally, there was proposed legislation to allow local governments to assume responsibility for maintaining secondary (subdivision) roads. Money for these roads is distributed last in the funding formula and localities are sometimes left waiting. With a revised system for state support accompanying this responsibility localities could have quicker access to dollars needed to maintain local roads. Other land use proposals included an opportunity to amend and create a designated urban development area (e.g. suburban service area) in comprehensive plans to direct growth to more suitable and accommodating areas thereby managing growth without furthering sprawl. Greater synergy between land use and transportation planning can only establish a better system.

VDOT reform is also critical to our long-term transportation well-being. For the last 70 years Virginia has followed the same antiquated Byrd political process. It is time for a change. We must move beyond on-time and on-budget as a standard and focus on direct benefits to you the consumers. Earlier this year the Governor broke his fiduciary duty and gave away $3 billion of potential revenue from businesses purchasing tolling rights in northern Virginia. To avoid another situation costing us valuable opportunities, we said that there should be no contract to transfer responsibility for operation of any toll facility to any other entity without prior legislative authorization from the General Assembly.

On Thursday the House approved an extensive package of transportation-related legislation. Bills included measures to provide additional funding increases for transportation totaling over $2.5 billion. This package capitalizes on our AAA bond rating and distributes money among the nine VDOT construction districts based on population. Another measure passed the House would expand the local match Revenue Sharing Program to $50 million, an important step to help our county help itself.

No monies have been taken away any funds from other core state services; in fact the budget which was passed marked significant investments in core services. Through bonding, abuser fees dedicated to the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund, existing state revenues, VDOT reform and readjustment of priorities for spending, we offered real ideas without defaulting to a tax increase.

It is my hope that some of these measures will put us on the road to better travel. Please feel free to contact me if you have an interest in this or other legislation. It is an honor to serve you.