Where We Stand on Transportation
In my very first post on this site I spoke about the Governor’s short-term solutions on transportation and how inadequate those solutions were with the needs of the Commonwealth. The General Assembly was still in the middle of its session then and I was hopeful that, despite poor appearances, the Administration would eventually come around and see the necessity of providing for the transportation needs of northern Virginia, which benefit the entire state when all is said and done. The General Assembly has wrapped up its special session on the budget now and by all appearances we’re in exactly the same place as where we started. If anything, we’ve even moved a little in the opposite direction.
As with all unfortunate situations, it bears reviewing how we got to this point and what could potentially be done to prevent it from happening again in the future. First there was the proposal to sell the naming rights to roads and bridges throughout Virginia as a way of generating extra revenue. This of course fell woefully short of what would be necessary to adequately fund all of Virginia’s transportation needs. For some time it appeared as though this would be the only solution to come out of Richmond. Then came devolution. The seemingly revolutionary idea of letting the localities handle transportation issues on their own amounted to nothing more than an attempt by the state government to abdicate its responsibilities, effectively passing the buck to the localities without providing any assistance in terms of helping to pay for the costs.
Devolution’s time in the spotlight was short-lived and soon enough we were back to square one. Firmly entrenched it would seem, with the passage of the state budget including the old proposition of selling naming rights. What’s worse, we have seen no movement from the Governor with regards to taking a principled stand when it comes to transportation, an issue he promised to seriously address while campaigning. Indeed, the only campaigning that seems to have taken place in Richmond has been that of Republicans against ancient enemies in the realm of social issues. These agendas have even spilled over into non-germane areas, most recently exhibited by the Administration’s refusal to provide the $150 million it is bound to provide for the Dulles Rail project over a disagreement over the use of unionized labor for the project. Three years after Governor McDonnell took office, there is still no sign of finding a dedicated funding source for transportation.
This represents a huge failure of leadership on the part of the Governor, who cast himself as a moderate but lately seems content to ally himself with the extreme right. We saw this earlier in the year when he failed to stop Republicans in the General Assembly from carrying out their absurd agenda focused on social issues rather than creating jobs and growing Virginia’s economy. We are seeing it again now with regards to transportation. Instead of putting forward a serious plan to address the growing gap between funding for transportation and the actual demands of the state, in which no option was off the table (this includes tax increases), the Governor and the rest of the Republican Party seem content to put forward the same used-up ideas and hope that no one notices. They are in for a rude shock next year should this behavior continue. Virginia needs and deserves better from its elected leaders.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.