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Who's To Blame?

Interesting story in today's Post from a poll of Virginia voters: The poll finds support among Northern Virginians for tax increases to improve the road and rail network. Also, people are angry with the state government for failing throughout 2006 to advance any measure that would improve traveling conditions.

Specifically, the poll found that 55 percent of the likely voters in Northern Virginia blamed the General Assembly for the ineffective special session last month, while 11 percent blamed Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

If they'd called me for the poll, I'd have spread the blame out a bit more. I'd up the share of heat that the governor should take on this. While this is Kaine's first year in office, Virginia gives any governor only four years to make a difference on any issue, because of the one-term limit. Kaine told Northern Virginia voters he really cared about their troubles getting around the region, and they responded with their support. He has yet to deliver for those voters. Where's the beef, Tim?

Meanwhile, the governmental, civic and business leadership of Northern Virginia has not used its considerable clout effectively in demanding results from Richmond. Those big fat surpluses that the legislative leaders are constantly pointing to are there because of the strong economies of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Time to demand some payback.

Lastly, I don't sense a united front on this among travelers themselves. I've ask readers of this blog or the Dr. Gridlock column (drgridlock@washpost.com) for comments on whether there's a transportation crisis and if so, what should be done about it. Responses have been about evenly divided on whether the system is indeed broken. Also, the people who are concerned about the region's time-robbing commutes are as likely to blame other drivers for the trouble as they are to demand government action.

I agree that bad behavior by drivers -- jumping lanes, blocking intersections, tailgating -- cause a lot of our problems. And I believe that government, like any enterprise, is often guilty of wasting money. But Northern Virginia and the rest of the region do have severe traffic problems that are going to become even more evident over the next decade. And we're not going to be able to nice our way out of it. Not by being nicer to each other on the roads and not by being nice to government leaders in Richmond, Annapolis and Washington.

By Robert Thomson  |  October 19, 2006; 9:19 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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