With school back in session and the full weight of Northern Virginia’s growing population back to straining our transportation system, now is as good a time as any to ask what the plan is to improve our roads, deflate the congestion and reduce commuting time.
What we’d most like to hear about—from those representing us at the county, state or federal level—is some new ideas to jump-start local transportation projects since funding of every kind appears to have dried up.
Three years into his governorship, we have to wonder what became of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan … or the good intentions of the Northern Virginia delegation to the General Assembly?
Well, except for the creation of one-time funding increase sources like bonds (which was successful) or the sale of the commonwealth’s ABC stores (which was unsuccessful), the only real revenue producing proposals have been the tolls added as part of the HOT lanes on the beltway or the erection of toll booths on Interstate 95, a proposal which is sounding more like a lost cause given the resistance from local municipalities.
The Richmond politicos still remain unable to put together a transportation plan that can operate in the long-term. In short: No one wants to do anything that looks like raising taxes, even if producing a new revenue stream is exactly what Virginia’s transportation network needs. That may be an increase in the gas price or an extra fee during real estate transactions. Whatever the funding solution is going to be, it needs to be ongoing and the monies need to be put aside specifically for transportation.
There will be those who favor turning the whole mess over to the counties. And it is true that the local governmental bodies can put a good project together from time to time. But Virginia is a network of roads that work better together. Solutions in Fairfax should be designed to also benefit Loudoun, Prince William or Arlington. Major arteries need to be improved in a way that make sense for the whole region and the state needs to identify priorities to ensure that rural roads don’t become overrun and suburban roads continue to grow.
Our transportation system has been described as crumbling and the funding mechanism for transportation programs as broken. There are certainly little things that Fairfax or the state government can do to move certain projects, but without an overhaul of the funding scheme it’s going to remain a chaotic and unstable process.
Everybody talks about it, but it’s time to institute a real transportation funding plan.