Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Politicians Speak Out Against Va. I-95 Tolling Plan

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Va. Governor Bob McDonnell may be full steam ahead on his plan to toll Interstate 95 at the North Carolina border as a way to raise money for infrastructure projects. But at least two of his fellow Republicans are putting on the brakes.

U.S. Senate Candidate George Allen recently announced his opposition to the plan, saying “Southern Virginia already faces significant economic challenges and these tolls could disadvantage job-creating businesses in the region, and the hardworking Virginia families already suffering from skyrocketing fuel costs.”

Just days later, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) fired off his third letter to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asking the agency to deny the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) proposal to install a toll on I-95 in Sussex County.

Rep. Forbes emphasized his continued opposition to VDOT’s application, which was filed Aug. 24, saying “it has been made clear that the interests and concerns of Southside Virginians have not been adequately addressed.”

The cacophony of voices opposing the I-95 tolling plan is growing louder by the day.  To date, 20 local governments, eight trade associations, 16 businesses, and thousands of Va. residents have opposed the plan.

We’re glad to see politicians adding their name to the list of those taking a stand against Gov. McDonnell’s plan to toll I-95.  We hope more will do the same.

Virginia’s Priorities Out of Whack

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Anyone who manages a budget knows that how you spend your cash is all a matter of priorities.

The Commonwealth of Virginia would have us believe that it was unable to find $9 million – the cost to pave just one-half mile of Interstate – in the state transportation budget to keep 19 of its 42 rest areas open.

But a review of budgetary spending clearly shows that Virginia consciously decided that funding those rest areas simply wasn’t a priority.

According to Virginia’s stimulus website, Virginia was awarded $4.8 billion from the $787 billion stimulus passed by Congress in February. Of those funds, Virginia allocated $1 billion for state infrastructure projects, including $123 million for highway projects.

Other states like Texas, in turn, see the value in putting stimulus funds toward new and enhanced rest areas.

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that Texas plans to bid contracts worth $30 million to expand and improve its highway rest areas before year’s end. Texas is funding the new facilities from its share of the stimulus package.

Virginia should follow Texas’ lead, and re-evaluate which expenditures merit making it into the final budget.

Virginia Moves Ahead with Commercialization Initiative

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Next week, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board will vote on a proposal to close 19 rest areas in the commonwealth, for a grand savings of $9 million.  As part of this plan to deal with the commonwealth’s budgetary shortfalls, Virginia has reaffirmed its support for commercialized rest areas and will call on Virginia’s congressional delegation to petition the federal government to allow the state to enter into the highway service business.

The Partnership to Save Highway Communities has been active from the first reports of rest area closures, including sending a letter to Governor Tim Kaine in opposition to the idea of commercialization as well as the closure of the rest areas altogether.  Commercialized rest areas will only serve to transfer economic activity from the local highway communities to the state.  The last thing the commonwealth should be doing in a time of such economic hardship is seek to replace thousands of Virginia-based businesses by directly and unfairly competing with them.

Also, you can’t help but question the political motives for proposing to close rest areas in the commonwealth.  The current proposal would save Virginia $9 million annually, or 0.225% of its entire transportation budget.  The $9 million saved each year is less than it costs to pave one half-mile of interstate highway.  However, such a small savings has yielded the largest complaints from motorists, truck drivers and local governments.  By proposing to commercialize Virginia rest areas, the commonwealth leaders have effectively shifted the conversation from Richmond to Washington, DC where they can then blame the federal government for not providing the flexibility to keep these rest areas open.

There are dozens of other programs the Virginia Department of Transportation could cut and keep these rest areas open, but the commonwealth is looking to spark a heated debate and therefore picked a visible target by threatening to close popular rest areas in Virginia.  As the debate moves forward into the summer, just remember – commercializing these rest areas isn’t the only option to save them.  In fact, it’s the worst option for everyone.