Commentary: Decision Slows Transportation Progress

Commentary: Decision Slows Transportation Progress

Frustrating. Exasperating. Maddening. Irritating.

Anyone who regularly drives in Northern Virginia is familiar with these feelings, because we all spend time sitting in traffic, staring at miles of brake lights in front of us.

One way we overcome these congestion problems is through funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), a state agency that has awarded $990 million to transportation projects all over the region.

After years of underfunding by the Commonwealth led to crippling traffic and insufficient maintenance, the 2013 Virginia General Assembly and then Governor McDonnell thankfully reached an agreement to significantly

increase funding for transportation, particularly in Northern Virginia, through this new pot of funds. It has been tremendously successful.

This year, attention was focused on the needs of Metro — a vital component in our transportation network and the Commonwealth’s economy. While the Commonwealth provides significant aid, it is important to note that the local jurisdictions in Virginia that have been responsible for funding Metro since its inception — over half a billion dollars has been provided through local and regional revenue sources in the last five years alone.

Unfortunately, Speaker Kirk Cox and Del. Tim Hugo blocked Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to provide new revenues for Metro (through small increases in taxes on hotel stays and property sales), which resulted

from discussions with a bipartisan coalition of businesses, local governments, transportation advocates, and legislators — instead, they forced the adoption a plan that diverts more than $100 million per year from existing road and transit projects funded by the transportation revenues enacted in 2013.

Our region’s transportation needs are still sizable, as evidenced by the fact that NVTA received $2.5 billion in project requests over the next six years, though it only has approximately $1.25 billion available to

distribute. As a result, many projects that would alleviate congestion and improve mobility will likely be delayed, deferred, or never built — a regrettable outcome that could have been avoided. We should not be addressing one transportation need at the expense of others.