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We Can Solve This, But ...

We can ease traffic congestion and make travel safer.

Some will say that statement is a no-brainer, while others will say, Not so fast, doc, we can't build our way out of congestion. There's a dispair over congestion that amounts to acceptance, a sense that what is bad now can only get worse.

But I'm looking forward to the new ramp that will open next week at the Springfield interchange. When I'm driving south from the Beltway onto I-95, I won't have to slide across several lanes of traffic to get where I need to be. The recent widening of I-66 near Manassas and the opening of the ramps at Route 28's Sterling interchange will make things better. The new interchanges on Route 29 in Maryland have made things better.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of Virginians gathered at the Capital One building in McLean because they also believe that we can do something about the traffic congestion that people continually identify as one of our region's top problems.

Former governor Gerald Baliles, who two decades ago became the last Virginia leader to launch a serious, sustained attack on the problem, once again defined the issue for the many who are frustrated by the task of getting from one place to another in this region.

"There is no state plan for addressing these overwhelming needs," he said. "We are not being realistic about the scop of the transportation challenges in the urban areas of the Commonwealth. We are not being realistic about the impact of congestion and gridlock on the lives of our citizens, the bottom lines of our businesses or the vibrancy of our economy. ... We are not being realistic about financing, planning and delivering transportation solutions any time soon."

Baliles refuses to accept the Virginia General Assembly's failure to adopt a transportation improvement program as the final word. He wants the 2007 session that starts in January to rededicate itself to finding a formula for both statewide and regional solutions.

Key problem: Virginia is running out of money to do anything but maintain the transportation system it already has.

The government, civic and business leaders at this forum sponsored by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance clearly believe that there is a solution to traffic congestion and they mean to be part of it.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 29, 2006; 7:59 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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