Updated: Conservation groups oppose McDonnell's transportation plan
A trio of conservation and smart-growth groups announced Wednesday their opposition to Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to issue $2.9 billion in bonds for transportation.
Officials at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Piedmont Environmental Council say they have concerns about the amount of money and the list of proposed projects.
"It involves too much borrowing and debt reminiscent of what got our households and nation into trouble over the last decade, and it will not address the underlying origins of our traffic congestion," said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
McDonnell said Virginia will save millions of dollars by issuing bonds now because interest and construction rates are so low. More than three dozen business and transportation groups have come out in support of the proposal.
But the conservative groups say the proposal gives the governor and his secretary of transportation too much power to decide how to spend the money and that they do not plan to spend enough money on transit projects.
"A more sustainable transportation plan for Virginia starts with revitalization of our cities, towns and older suburbs, it focuses on transit, freight rail and passenger rail, and it focuses on improved and better connected local road infrastructure that also supports walking and bicycling,'' said Roger Diedrich, transportation chair for the Sierra Club.
McDonnell's office did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
Updated, 3:05 p.m.: McDonnell's office responds: "None of the governor's transportation proposals will increase Virginia's total authorized tax supported debt and this plan keeps Virginia's debt capacity at a 5 percent average over time,'' McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "Further, as has been widely reported, VDOT already has the money necessary for debt service in the form of insurance premium tax revenue approved in 2007. All this plan does is prudently, and wisely, reorder the use of existing debt to capture economies from lower interest rates and lower construction bids....Of course this fiscal argument is just a smokescreen thrown up by these groups to conceal their chief objection to the plan. These are organizations that want to move Virginians away from their usage of motor vehicles as their chief means of transportation. Obviously it doesn't help their agenda if we build new highways and make it easier for Virginians to drive from point A to point B. We understand their position, and they are certainly free to advance it. However, it does put them at odds with the overwhelming majority of Virginians who would simply like to get to work in the morning a little easier and home in the evening a little quicker."
| January 26, 2011; 2:48 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate, Transportation
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