Text of Connolly, Del. Scott Statement at Kaine Town Meeting in Manassas

Update 11/30: Post coverage of the 11/29 meeting.

Originally posted 11/29:

In advance of this evening's town hall meeting on transportation being held by Virginia Governor-elect Tim Kaine, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly and Delegate James Scott have issued the attached joint statement concerning congestion reduction that will be presented at this evening's town hall meeting.

Governor-Elect Kaine, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Good evening, and welcome to Northern Virginia. We're delighted to welcome you to the region and excited that you have chosen to make the discussion of transportation priorities your first signature act as our new Governor. We're also encouraged that you have made it a point to actively listen to citizens and elected officials' concerns on this important issue.
The State's transportation network is unique in that it is something that almost everyone interacts with every single day, generally more than once. And, the increasing frailty of our transportation network underscores the fact that getting from Point A to Point B has become increasingly frustrating and unpredictable - whether by road or by rail. 
However, if recent history and population predictions are any guide, Northern Virginia will continue to attract new residents and jobs. In 2004 alone, Fairfax County added 25,000 jobs, and it is anticipated that over the next 20 years, Northern Virginia as a whole will add 1 million new residents and 800,000 new jobs. This growth represents a significant challenge to the region, but also a significant opportunity to make investments that will improve the transportation network for all Virginians.
But to continue this growth, it's clear that we will have to address how we grow, so that we retain the region's high quality of life and ensure that we do not repeat past mistakes. The Washington, DC region, including the Northern Virginia suburbs, is already the third most congested metropolitan area in the nation. The region's highways are increasingly crowded, even outside of traditional rush hours; Metrorail is running at capacity during peak hours and VRE needs more rail cars to meet increasing demand. The region is strangling on traffic congestion.  Urban, suburban, and rural areas need to work together to tackle the state's transportation issues before they strangle the state's economic vitality. As you have stated, "it's time for new thinking on transportation".
In furtherance of your stated goals to systematically reduce traffic and protect our communities, to help us choose the right road and transit projects to sustain future growth, make better use of existing transportation infrastructure, strengthen existing neighborhoods, and protect open spaces, we have developed the following 8 point Congestion Management Strategy for improving Virginia's transportation system:
Certainly substantial transit and road improvements are critical elements of any transportation plan to improve safety, accessibility, and mobility for the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Increasing the supply of transit and highway system capacity is important to reducing congestion and accidents and improving travel times. However, this is only part of the solution for dealing with the congestion overwhelming the state's urban areas. We propose an eight-point plan for CONGESTION REDUCTION that emphasizes reducing the demand for additional large infrastructure outlays. 
1.      Create a high-level Office of Congestion Management (OCM)
A serious effort to reduce congestion should involve addressing the "demand" side of the transportation problem. Sufficient staffing and financial resources should be set aside from insurance tax revenues to fund the new office. It would be charged with developing and overseeing Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs and strategies throughout the Commonwealth. It would be responsible for giving leadership to the Commonwealth's own efforts and for providing technical assistance to public and private entities. The OCM should report directly to the Secretary of Transportation as the Commonwealth Multimodal Transportation Planning Office now does.
 
2.    Aggressively Promote Telework
One of the roles of the Office of Congestion Management would be to staff an executively-created Telework Council charged with promoting telework throughout the Commonwealth. The Council would sunset after 4 years, be composed of representatives from public and private agencies now engaged in telework promotion, would provide, through the OCM, technical assistance to local governments and private businesses and would issue annual progress reports now required under Sec. 2.1-20.1:9 of the Code of Virginia.   
In order to ensure maximum use of congestion management strategies such as Telework, rapid deployment of high speed internet capacity is essential. Rapid deployment of broadband to underserved areas will dramatically increase opportunities for those who wish to use the internet to work at home or at central, but nearby, community telework stations such as the Woodbridge Telework Center. Dial-up service remains the only option in far too many areas, including portions of Northern Virginia. Telework becomes a realistic option only with broadband access. 
3.   Promote Flextime
OCM should help employers develop incentives and/or opportunities for employees to adjust their hours to avoid peak travel periods (as well as to address personal needs), thereby reducing commute times and spreading the peak demand on the existing transportation infrastructure over a longer time period to reduce congestion. 
We believe that there is a strong need for the personal advocacy of the Governor to encourage telework and flex-time within both the public and private sectors. Without the support and buy-in of senior management, it is unlikely that these strategies will succeed within the existing work culture and structure of most businesses and agencies.
4.      Develop incentives for unified shuttle bus services within commercial centers and between commercial centers and transit nodes 
In some large commercial centers, a lack of coordination between employers has resulted in the provision of multiple shuttle services where a unified system could operate more effectively and more efficiently. Employers should be offered incentives to combine resources and provide coordination through a single broadly-based entity.
5.      Create local public-private partnerships to prioritize and promote low-cost congestion reduction strategies
House Joint Resolution 276 created a coordinating committee composed of businesses, civic organizations and public officials whose mission is to develop low-cost solutions to existing congestion in the Tysons Corner area. This public-private entity prioritized tactics and improvements designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian access to and through Northern Virginia's largest commercial center. Since 1998, traffic signals have been optimized, key intersections have been improved, sidewalk and bikeway connections constructed, street signs enlarged and increased and key road improvements constructed. A recent article in the Washington Examiner highlighted one recent success resulting from this collaborative effort. OCM should help other localities employ similar strategies that will allow workers and residents to run errands, go out to lunch, perform other activities, and connect with regional transit services to return home or travel to other areas while leaving their cars at home.
6.      Focus the Transportation Improvement Plan on Congestion Management
The TIP should promote additional capacity and infrastructure through road, bridge, rail and transit improvements, but it should also recognize, and provide resources for, congestion reduction strategies and facilities.
7.      Review and modernize standards and codes
OCM     should coordinate the review of state-wide codes and standards with the goal of promoting such techniques as parking standards that encourage transit usage, connectivity within and between commercial areas and, to adjacent uses where appropriate, and road design, with the goal of promoting pedestrian, bike and transit usage and reducing single-occupancy vehicle usage. Northern Virginia and other urban-suburban areas of the state have unique needs which should be reflected in the way the state designs roads in these areas. For example, the movement of pedestrians and transit users, accessibility to properties, and overall impacts on the surrounding community must all be carefully balanced with vehicular movement. Often this requires rethinking how a transportation facility will be designed. There is a need to promote context-sensitive design - considering a project design in the context of its particular environment and needs - and reviewing the application of VDOT standards and guidelines for designing projects in urban-suburban area.
8.      Provide incentives for developments that construct transit-oriented, mixed-use developments and infill development in areas with transportation infrastructure
As you stressed in your campaign, local governments need additional tools to better balance transportation and development, therefore, OCM should promote incentives and enforcement mechanisms to encourage mixed uses, density bonuses, performance codes, and accelerated processing for building transit-oriented developments with mixed-uses that allow people to live, work, shop, and play in their neighborhood thereby reducing the amount of time traveling from place to place and their dependence on an already overcrowded transportation network.
Thank you for reaching out to our communities to better understand our transportation concerns and issues. We look forward to working with you over the next four years to improve mobility and accessibility for all the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 
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By Steve Fehr |  November 29, 2005; 6:03 PM ET  | Category:  Transportation
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