By. Neil Williamson, President
“We think it has the potential to broadly change the way transportation planning and programming and funding [takes] place in Virginia,” said Stephen Williams, the director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. …
State law already requires localities to include a transportation section in their comprehensive plans. The new legislation would require those plans to be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to make sure they are “consistent” with the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB) state plans.
“The department could withhold federal or state funds until the local government came into consistency,” Williams said.
Wait a minute, the state department charged with building and maintaining the transportation network across the state, can withhold state and federal funds if the local governments refuse to follow the state plan?
And this requires NEW legislation?
The Free Enterprise Forum firmly believes transportation is a state and federal responsibility. Fully understanding the transportation needs of the entire state requires a longer lens than any one locality may posses.
Further, transportation decisions are not made in a secret star chamber. Local governments are often the best represented interests at such public meetings. The idea that local government does not have a voice is patently untrue but the idea that a local government should not [by ether action or inaction] have veto power over the state transportation program is absolutely true.
Virginia has the third-largest state-maintained highway system in the country, behind Texas and North Carolina. VDOT is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state’s roads, bridges and tunnels.
Last week, I was in Northern Virginia and I was amazed at the number of significant transportation projects that were under construction. Long overdue updates to the Capital Beltway, Dulles Toll Road and I-66 each will impact millions of travelers each year. (October 2011 photo of new interchange at I-495 and Dulles Toll Road)
“Virginia simply cannot remain a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not continue to address our transportation challenges. That is why this year’s transportation package will dedicate additional funding to transportation and will help spur our economic recovery through job creation, forward-thinking investments and promoting our transportation assets. . .
“Without an adequate transportation system, almost every aspect of our daily lives and government are negatively impacted,” said Governor McDonnell. “Therefore, we must get serious and start treating transportation like a core function of government.”
While the Free Enterprise Forum is not convinced that the dedicated transportation funding stream proposed in McDonnell’s initiatives will provide the needed revenue to complete the majority of our state’s long delayed road projects., we applaud the Governor for making transportation a priority of his administration.
If the state is willing to accept transportation as a “core function of government”, local governments should be eager to have state infrastructure investment in state coordinated transportation projects. If a local government chooses not to follow the State transportation program, withholding state and federal funds from the locality seems to be a reasonable and rational “stick” to encourage compliance.
Put rather bluntly, the V in VDOT stands for Virginia; all of Virginia.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits: Virginia Department of Transportation, Governor Robert McDonnell office, Michaele White