And what about the roads? With school back in session and the full weight of Northern Virginia’s growing population back to straining our transportation system, it’s time to ask what the plan is to improve our roads, deflate the congestion and reduce commuting time.
With that in mind, there are a few interesting additions to the proposed legislative package up for discussion by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors Sept. 5.
Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) has added two items for discussion, both of which would either collect or earmark local funds for transportation purposes. The first is an additional 2 percent gas tax in Northern Virginia and the second is the diversion of 2 percent of the Transient Occupancy Tax from tourism support to transportation.
While we’d like to hear much more before supporting either proposal, it’s good to hear new ideas being discussed to fund local transportation projects since state funding has all but completely dried up.
But there’s an interesting story here. Why is it that our local board is stockpiling a potential tax base when road planning, construction and maintenance remains primarily a function of state government?
No one on an all-Republican board wants to throw stones at the statehouse, but what happened to the McDonnell 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. Major arteries need 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 Loudoun 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.
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