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Why the Money Matters

Politicians and transportation advocates are pessimistic about whether the Virginia General Assembly's special session, starting today, will restore any of the spending for roads and transit that was promised in the legislature's 2007 session.

At the moment, the most likely outcome would enshrine the several billion dollars in delays and cuts made to the state transportation plan last week. Click on the map of Northern Virginia to review them.

State law, and prudence, require that maintenance of what's already there come before construction. In the next decade, most of Virginia's transportation spending will be devoted to maintenance.

What happened to the 2007 plan?

First, Virginians decided they didn't want to increase the penalties for reckless driving, and the 2008 General Assembly eliminated that source of revenue. But the big blow to the plan was Virginia Supreme Court ruling in February that overturned the financing plan that had empowered the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Meanwhile, the cost of buying material for projects was rising sharply and state revenues were slowing along with the economy.

Some of you rode Virginia Railway Express trains to work today. Let's use VRE as an example of what's happening.

The 2007 legislation, HB 3202, would have created a steady revenue source for VRE of $25 million a year, starting this July.

VRE had made plans to buy seven more locomotives, create an early morning train on the Fredericksburg Line, restore the mid-morning train on the Manassas Line and add a late night Manassas train with connecting bus service to Fredericksburg Line stations.

That's looking like a pipe dream now, along with road widenings, interchange construction, bus and streetcar service, bike trails and sidewalk construction in most parts of Northern Virginia.

Join me at 1 p.m. for an online discussion of transportation concerns throughout the Washington region. We can talk about the future of local travel, or your problems commuting today. If you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance, use this link.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 23, 2008; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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