Greater Greater Washington

Roads


Follow the money in Virginia's transportation bill

Virginia's complex transportation funding bill, HB2313, is headed to Governor McDonnell for his signature and potential amendments. The bill is a prime example of political sausage, seeking to satisfy Republican and Democrat, urban and rural, transit and road constituencies.


Photo by jimmywayne on Flickr.

It also represents poor public policy by undermining the "user pays" principle, failing to reform VDOT spending, allocating far too little to transit in an urbanizing state, and off-loading responsibility for local roads to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Some political observers argue that the only way Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads could win rural legislators' support for new revenues would be to place the burden on themselves. And they have, by increasing local sales taxes, recordation fees and transient occupancy (hotel) tax, and with a higher state sales tax, which derives heavily from the two regions.

Virginia's smart growth and conservation community expressed concerns with the bill on Saturday.

While Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will able to raise (tax themselves), keep, and allocate new transportation revenue, VDOT escapes responsibility for meeting the needs of the two most economically important parts of the Commonwealth. The bill frees VDOT to take more of the statewide sales tax revenues for highway construction outside the two regions.

Now that the bill has passed, and presuming the Governor signs it, it will be incumbent upon legislators, local elected officials and the public to watch-dog how the money is spent, starting with the next update of the state's 6-year transportation plan, due in June. Setting the right priorities with the local money from and for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will be equally important.

Who voted for and against?

The 25 to 15 vote in the Senate included 17 Democrats and 8 Republicans voting yes, and 3 Democrats and 12 Republicans voting no. Northern Virginia yes votes were Senators George Barker, Charles Colgan Sr., Barbara Favola, Mark Herring, Janett Howell, Dave Marsden, Toddy Puller and Richard Saslaw, all Democrats. No votes were Democratic Senators Adam Ebbin and Chap Peterson, and Republican Senators Richard Black and Jill Holtzman Vogel.

The 60 to 40 vote in the House included 25 Democrats and 35 Republicans voting yes, and 4 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting no. Northern Virginia yes votes were Democratic Delegates Robert Brink, David Bulova, Eileen Filler-Corn, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Robert Krupicka, Alfonso Lopez, Kenneth Plum, James Scott, Mark Sickles, Luke Torian and Vivian Watts; and Republican Delegates David Albo, Mark Dudenhefer, Thomas Greason, James LeMunyon, Joseph May, Randall Minchew, and Thomas Rust.

Northern Virginia no votes came from Democratic Delegate Scott Surovell and Republicans Richard Anderson, Barbara Comstock, Timothy Hugo, Scott Lingamfelter, Robert Marshall, Jackson Miller, and David Ramadan.

The complete bill history can be found here.

Follow the money

The best source for tracking the new taxes and the funding allocations is the HB2313 Transportation Conference Report, but even this requires interpretation.

While the bill no longer eliminates all taxes on gasoline, it still reduces what road users will pay in daily operating costs. It eliminates the 17.5¢ retail gas tax and shifts to a wholesale sales tax on gas. This reduces user fees in 2014 by nearly one-third, and by 20% in 2018 assuming the receipts increase because of a rise in gas prices.

The bill makes up for reducing gas taxes primarily by increasing the sales tax on new car purchases, charging a $100 fee on alternative fuel vehicles like hybrids, and tapping statewide sales taxes on goods and services (but not food).

Day-to-day vehicle user costs will decline, and all taxpayers will pay more even if they drive little or not at all. Meanwhile, transit fares are likely to continue to climb in the absence of adequate state support for transit maintenance and operating costs.

VDOT is free to continue wasting money on unnecessary highway projects

The statewide portion of the bill is truly a highway bill: it directs $538 million (annually by 2018) to the highway maintenance accounts, but this will effectively free up an equal amount in highway construction funds, allowing the current administration to continue a pattern of funding rural highways with little traffic demand.

Just last week, VDOT announced it would allocate another $869 million in federal Garvee bonds to Route 460 and the Coalfields Expressway, two of the most wasteful, unnecessary projects in the history of Virginia. Four questionable projectsRoute 460 ($1.4 billion), Coalfields Expressway ($2.8 billion), Charlottesville Bypass ($240 million), and the Outer Beltway in Northern Virginia (estimated $1 billion)total a potential $5.5 billion in misallocated spending.

Many expect that Secretary Connnaughton intends to divert a substantial portion of the new statewide money to the controversial and sprawl-inducing Outer Beltway, rather than to the critical commuter corridor needs of the metro regions.

Just 21% of the statewide funds go to transit and passenger rail in 2018, although passenger rail advocates are rightly pleased that $44 million in 2014 and $56 million per year by 2018 will go to current Amtrak services for which Virginia is now responsible, and for capital investment in the passenger rail network. An existing funding source supports upgrades for freight rail.

The $84 million for public transit isn't a lot of money when it must be shared among transit agencies across the state. The bill allocates a separate $300 million to Dulles Rail, but like some of the road money it's coming from the existing state sales tax at the expense of General Fund needs like education and health care.

The bill fails to address the empty secondary and urban road capital accounts, unless the administration commits to use some of the freed-up road money in the Transportation Trust Fund for this purpose. Instead, the bill implicitly off-loads the cost of local roads to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads through the local sales tax increases in those two regions. Shifting this responsibility allows VDOT to spend more money on rural highways.

Part of the future depends on a bill in Congress

Part of the bill also depends on the federal Marketplace Equity Act, a bill in Congress which would let states charge sales tax on Internet purchases. If that does not pass by January 2015, the sales tax on gas will rise another 1.7 percentage points to make up for the expected revenue from the MEA. This would bring gas taxes back to a level comparable to where they are today, if not a little higher at current per-gallon prices.

The Washington Post also reports that Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) secured another provision that would kick in if the MEA does not pass. In that case, the amount of general fund revenue directed to transportation would drop from $200 million a year to $60 million a year.

More taxes rise in NoVa and Hampton Roads

The bill would raise between $300 and $350 million per year in and for Northern Virginia by 2018. It does so by increasing the sales tax in northern Virginia by 0.7 percentage points on top of the statewide 0.3 point increase, for a new total of 6%.

There's also a 0.25% recordation tax on recorded deeds and a 3% transient occupancy (hotel) tax. The bill retains the existing local 2.1% tax on fuel. 70% of the funds will go to "regional" projects and 30% to local projects in the locality where the money is raised. The funds can go to roads or transit, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will decide how to allocate the money.

For Hampton Roads, the bill would raise $219 million in 2018, using a local sales tax increase of 0.7 percentage points and a 2.1% local tax on fuel. However, the legislation directs these funds only for roads, despite the great need for transit and widespread support for light rail in the region.

Following the success of "The Tide" light rail in Norfolk, 62% of voters in Virginia Beach's referendum last November supported extending light rail to the beach. The Navy has also expressed its strong support for extending light rail to Norfolk Naval Station.

In a final example of VDOT off-loading costs onto the two metro regions, the bill failed to allocate state funds to Hampton Roads' Midtown/Downtown Tunnel project which local officials want. Instead, the authors of the bill say that localities should use the new regional funding sources if they want to buy down the costs of the tolls, even as VDOT diverts $1.12 billion of state and federal funds to the unnecessary Route 460 over the objections of many in the region.

Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director and a founder of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which he built into the leading smart growth organization in the Washington, DC region, addressing the interconnected issues of land use, transportation, urban design, housing, and energy. A retired Navy Captain with 24 years of active and reserve service, he earned a BA and JD from the University of Virginia and an MA from Georgetown University. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Welcome to the newest phrase nova will hear for the next 10 years.

"Localities should use the new regional funding sources if they want to buy down the costs of the tolls, even as VDOT diverts $1.12 billion of state and federal funds to the unnecessary Route 460 over the objections of many in the region."

Now that we have our own money, the state will never feel an obligation to provide any assistance for capital projects, even though we pay the same taxes that the rest of the state pays towards the overall piggy bank. Time after time we will hear governors and legislators say, just go use your own money.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

Interesting summary. Sausage making at its greatest.

One serious, but not yet discussed, is the unconstitutional nature of the NVTA. It violates one person, one vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held such requirement applies to any body that performs general government functions. The NVTA appropriates money and issues bonds. It is subject to the one person, one vote requirement, IMO.

The NVTA does use weighted voting sometimes, from what I've been able to discover. But the addition of one state senator, two state delegates and two gubernatorial appointments gives more votes to some people in NoVA than others. I don't believe NVTA is constitutional after the Transportation Bill gives it taxpayer money.

by TMT on Feb 25, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

I wouldn't mind so much letting Northern Va. (and HR) to fund a greater share of its projects as long as it can tell VDOT and the State at large to take a hike when it comes to deciding what to do with the money. That really isn't the case.

The biggest threat to Fairfax County leveraging its proto-urban areas is VDOT who can apparently find no evidence of people living in close quarters without the need for two left turn lanes at every intersection.

by drumz on Feb 25, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

@TMT: Does the public elect NVTA members?

by JimT on Feb 25, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

The NVTA Board isn't directly elected, but rather is made up of elected officials from each of the jurisdictions. Exactly like WMATA, VRE, PRTC, NVTC, TPB, and a host of other taxpayer-funded, money-spending agencies.

It's definitely constitutional. No question about it.

by BeyondDC on Feb 25, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Sad. Sad. Sad.

Especially sad that so many democrats voted for this monstrosity.

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

Smart growth community essentially sold down the river for Medicaid expansion. The whole thing was rife with politic and the fact that the committee members selected who were democrats (only 2 of the 10) came from rural districts with not much as far as needs for transportation is indicative of the backwards nature of this bill and process.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Great win for Nova. Big lose for the Piedmont, which is now open for suburban development if market conditions even move back to that.

It is a great win. I wish we had a 5% tax on gas instead of 3, but that is sausage. And you get 5 if you can't tax amazon.

I also wish we taxes hybrid cars a bit more, since as far as I can tell they are using pulbiclly funded roads and not paying as much. Even more of an issue with the Prius being 10 years old and a resale market existing. Not sure if the hybrid tax catches used car sales.

by charlie on Feb 25, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

"Smart growth community essentially sold down the river for Medicaid expansion."

1. The principle of taxing gas was retained, and if and when gas taxes go up, the revenue will be greater than the in rem tax.

2. The tax on vehicles won't be good for discouraging their use, but it will at least be a break for car free folks

3. As this post points out, we now have the opportunity to fight on a project by project basis - the game is not over.

4. Medicaid expansion is probably our biggest opportunity to expand the social safety net in Va for a long time, and is worth some of the loss of general fund expenditures on social services.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

"if and when gas prices go up"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

@Charlie -- why is this a great win for NOVA? Do you think we will get more money out of this bill than we pay in taxes?

I also wish we taxes hybrid cars a bit more, since as far as I can tell they are using pulbiclly funded roads and not paying as much.

That's fine as long as hybrid car owners get a refund on the portion of their taxes that go toward compliance with the Clean Air Act. As far as I can tell, their cars are not using publicly funded clean air.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Charlie, [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] $100 basically puts hybrid vehicles in the same weight class as hummers (10mpg). Hummers cause 96 times more damage to the road than most hybrids.

So please explain to me why hybrids should be taxed more.

And yes, I repeat FCs question, why is this a win for NOVA. We are now being double taxed with an almost guarantee we will never see the standard funds from the regular 3.5% gas tax. If anything rural regions win again, by now stealing even more money from us NOVA residents who actually need transportation projects and improvements and dont look at them as just jobs bills.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

Transportation in Virginia has been a mess for years, and this ensures it stays that way.

Just over the weekend, I drove from my home in Silver Spring to visit friends in Richmond.

The first 30 miles of my trip in VA was one giant highway construction zone aka finishing of the Wilson Bridge project and the I-95 HOT lanes all the way into Stafford.

The next 30 miles were the most pleasant with no construction and actually freshly paved roads and repaired/replaced road signs and guardrales *pinch me, am I in VA?*

The last 30 miles I think I drove over more pothole patches, general road debris from crumbling pavement and passed rusted leaning guardrails. Oh yes, I've left the maintenance districts of NOVA and entered the VDOT district that maintains greater Richmond.

Maybe it's a good thing this plan will continue to rob NOVA for 'rural' Virginia, since apparently Richmond is rural, or at least it's highways are maintained as such. What an embarrassment for Virginia and VDOT I-95 really is!

by Gull on Feb 25, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

it should be noted in this context, that some federal highway funding is clean air mitigation grants, the concept being that by reducing congestion, we reduce car idling, and thus emission of criteria pollutants. Plug in electric vehicles, which do not emit criteria pollutants when idling, do not benefit in terms of emissions from such improvements.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

AWITC

Yikes, no. You are smarter than this. This is a HIGHER tax on car free people. Gas tax is a user fee. The people who get screwed by a sales tax/real estate tax are those who live in urban and inner suburbs (ie car free people).

For the 3.5% whole sale tax to reach what the at the pump 17.5 cent rate was, gas would have to climb to about 5.50 at the pump.

This was a huge shell game. The only people that get a true tax break are those who don't buy much, dont own an expensive house (rural), and who use gas more recklessly than others.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

" We are now being double taxed with an almost guarantee we will never see the standard funds from the regular 3.5% gas tax."

Compare

"Now that the bill has passed, and presuming the Governor signs it, it will be incumbent upon legislators, local elected officials and the public to watch-dog how the money is spent, starting with the next update of the state's 6-year transportation plan, due in June. Setting the right priorities with the local money from and for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will be equally important"

IE the game is not over.

If the concern is the priorities of Mr Connaughton, there will opportunity to address that in November of 2013.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

TE

clearly the shift to sales tax revenue is a bad thing. But thats not the only element. Whether and when the nominal price of gasoline will hit $5.50 is debatable (do note it will pushed in that direction both by increases in the real price of gas, as well as by general inflation).

This is not what I would have wanted. But the NoVa dems were not in a position to get whatever they wanted. I can well understand why most of them voted for this bill, and I do not think the heated rhetoric is justified - this is a flawed bill, to be sure, but it has some positives. And while you may not care about the medicaid win, I do, and so do many Democrats in NoVa.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

And while you may not care about the medicaid win, I do, and so do many Democrats in NoVa.

We were going to get Medicaid regardless. Most of the moderate Repub governors have already gone for medicaid and McDonnell can't afford to be the odd man out. Giving up the Medicaid funds would have been a political disaster for the Rs and they knew that. Jumping off the medicaid bridge was an empty threat.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

Well here's to medicaid expansion being a panacea.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@ JimT & @ BeyondDC

There is a serious constitutional issue. The membership of the NVTA consists of one elected official from each of the local governments, which belong to the NVTA region; one state senator; two state delegates; and two members appointed by the Governor.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held any public body that exercises "traditional government functions" must comply with the One Person, One Vote standard. This applies to bodies that consist of other elected officials as well. While there is some weighted voting, as I understand it, the combination of state legislators and local officials gives some residents of NoVA more sway than others. For example, Senator Ebbin is a member of the NVTA. His constituents have two representatives to the NVTA. Most others have only one. Since the NVTA appropriates money to projects and issues bonds, it is performing traditional government functions and, therefore, must follow one person, one vote. The addition of gubernatorial appointees makes it even more complicated. Further, I suspect the inclusion of any local representatives elected by district (e.g., Martin E. Nohe, PW County) is also likely unconstitutional since some citizens of the locality don't have a vote.

Re the Smart Growth Community. It is not a major player in Virginia. It doesn't have a seat at the table to the same degree many other interest groups do. The vast majority of Virginians don't have a goal of discouraging the use of motor vehicles. Even the Tysons landowners, who have huge TDM obligations, would rather have more tenants who drive lots of cars than fewer tenants who drive less.

by TMT on Feb 25, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

FC

only one GOP governor of a southern state has given in on that. Scott in Florida. How long the Va GOP would have held out, I do not know, but given some of their craziness on other things, I do not assume they would have been reasonable. Certainly on this I trust the judgement of the dems in the legislature rather more than that of commentors here. And I would note that by Va moving ahead, this will add momentum for similar expansion in other states that are still holding out.

TE

It is a key part of the affordable care act. I'm not sure what you mean by panacea.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

The new gas tax will break even at $5.00, and exceed the old one at higher prices. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. I don't think we'll see sub-$3 gas anytime soon.

by Frank IBC on Feb 25, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

@TMT - How do you figure about the Tysons land owners would want more drivers than less drivers? More walkable neighborhoods are proven to be more marketable both for rental/sale rates as well as for retail where it is a crucial leasing factor and pricing factor (foot traffic not car traffic). Otherwise tell me why Reston costs what it does psf, or Old Town vs Huntington, or Courthouse vs Route 50 corridor.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

"Smart growth community essentially sold down the river for Medicaid expansion"

You can thank the current Admin. in Washington for that

by Jack on Feb 25, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

TMT, the Supreme Court decisions - Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Simms - apply only to state legislative districts and city and county councilmanic districts.

by Frank IBC on Feb 25, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

TMT: The vast majority of Virginians don't have a goal of discouraging the use of motor vehicles. Even the Tysons landowners, who have huge TDM obligations, would rather have more tenants who drive lots of cars than fewer tenants who drive less.

The vast majority of Virginians don't have a goal of discourging the use of transit/walking either*. Tysons landowners would rather have more tenants who use transit than fewer tenants who drive lots of cars. In fact, having tenants who drive lots of cars almost ensures fewer tenants because there is simply not enough space for that many cars per person in Tysons.

*57% of Virginians would rather take transit than drive if commuting times were the same: http://www.wtop.com/41/2598270/WTOP-Poll-Most-area-commuters-would-prefer-public-transit

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

@TMT

There is a serious constitutional issue.

No, there is not. The courts have decided many times over that special districts like NVTA do not violate the "one person, one vote" rule.

Beyond that, these kinds of administrative districts exist all over the country and throughout many types of limited governmental functions - utilities, transit, etc and have for decades. You think that you're the first person to figure this "one person, one vote" thing out?

by MLD on Feb 25, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

@FallsChurch; NOVA get the ability to tax itself more, and will see more money -- eventually. Sure, more money is also going to the rest of the state as well. I'm sorry, that is the nature of being part of state. go join WV is you disagree...;-)

And in terms of a hybrid/Hummer distiction, I am fairly sure the purchaser of a hummer would pay nothing -- that is the nature of used car sales. IN any case, it goes back to use. Is any regulation like this -- rather than a more direct tax - the most efficient way to regulate use -- no. But I'd reckon that most Prius are being used more than most Hummers these days...

You're leaving aside the weight issue, which is one I could get behind more, but i'm not sure a hybrid SUV is much better than a hummer is damanging roads.

Hybrid cars don't pollute? Amazing. I might say that about electric cars since they displace the pollution, but a prius still has a combustion engine.

by charlie on Feb 25, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

I never said they dont pollute (I assume you are talking to somebody else on that).

The hybrid that is like a truck pays more than the hybrid that is like a sedan. The hybrid tax is on top of the regular gas 3.5%. So all things being equal that would shake out also. This is a punitive attack on hybrids specifically. Adding $100 was just some dumb number someone came up with without even looking at what other cars pay for the gas tax. As I said $100 is about what a sedan pays in a year on gas tax given the 17.5cent old tax. Now it would be what a SUV pays.

On top of that hybrids still pay normal gas tax for their slightly improved gas mileage (between 5-15mpg improved for most hybrids only). So you end up having hybrid sedans paying $135 per year (same as a hummer) and hybrid trucks paying closer to $200 per year (by comparison that same truck if it werent a hybrid would be paying $135).

You are mixing apples and oranges.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Sure, more money is also going to the rest of the state as well. I'm sorry, that is the nature of being part of state.

I agree that it's the penalty we pay for being tied to downstate VA unless we want to secede (which I'm not proposing). But, how is this a "huge win" for NOVA? If NOVA is the winner, who is the loser? And, don't tell me it's win-win because money is zero sum.

The simpler explanation is that this bill is a huge win for downstate VA since it represents a transfer of wealth from NOVA to them.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

And as far as the paying towards the rest of the state. NYC always complains about how much money they get back from the state compared to how much they pay. They have griped for a long time about how this is a ridiculous policy of spite by upstaters. They get back 45 cents on the dollar.

As of the past 3 years we get back 19 cents on the dollar sent to Richmond overall, and about 35-40cents (depending on what you call NOVA...) on the dollar. This new bill will almost assuredly reduce that to a far lesser number to only cover maintenance costs and add no funding for capital projects.

Sure urban areas subsidize rural areas (unless you ask Delegate Kilgore that is), but the extent to which it is happening in this state is absurd and political in motive, and ultimately is an attack on our businesses when the cost of state obligations continues to be passed on in these special tax districts.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

*35-40 cents back on the dollar for transportation is what that should read

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

One odd outcome (and there are many) from this bill, is that it provides a reason for those who oppose using more sales tax revenue to pay for road projects to oppose the passage of the federal Marketplace Equity Act allowing internet taxes in the current Congressional session. If the bill does not pass, then the wholesale tax on gas goes to 5.1%, roughly equivalent to the current excise tax at current prices. Would have been a lot simpler to have a 6% wholesale tax on gas and diesel if they had to move to a wholesale tax.

As for the transit funding amounts in this bill, that could be fixed by a Governor McAuliffe in a couple of years by allowing the extra sales tax in NoVA and Hampton Roads to go to transit projects if there is enough support to do that. It is easier to adjust distribution of existing revenue than it is to increase revenue with new taxes. I would not anticipate that a Gov. Cuccinelli would be inclined to do that, instead he would probably try to repeal some of the new taxes in the bill.

by AlanF on Feb 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

@ Gull:Oh yes, I've left the maintenance districts of NOVA and entered the VDOT district that maintains greater Richmond.

Apparently, you did not notice that in Richmond all I-95 bridges are being replaced. Once you're trough Richmond and on your way to Petersburg, you'll find beautifully new asphalt. I-295 is fantastic for most of the way.

There is a stretch just before Richmond that is crap. I assume that will be repaved when they're done with the bridges up there.

http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/richmond/i-95_bridge_restoration_project_map.asp

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Hybrid cars don't pollute? Amazing. I might say that about electric cars since they displace the pollution, but a prius still has a combustion engine.

Hybrid cars pollute less, therefore hybrid owners should have to pay less toward Clean Air Act compliance. That's based on the same logic that says hybrid owners pay less for roads through the gas tax, so they should make up for that with a $100 penalty.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

@ Frank IBC

See Avery v. Midland County, 390 U.S. 474 (1968); Board of Estimate of City of New York v. Morris, 489 U.S. 688 (1989). The latter case involved the issue of whether the New York City Board of Estimate was constitutional. It consisted of elected officials from around the City. To make a long story short, the U.S. Supreme Court found too much deviation from equal population representation in the Board and struck it down. There are considerable similarities between the Board of Esimate and the NVTA. If the NVTA consisted only of local government officials elected at large and used a weighted vote, it would be constitutional, IMO. But it doesn't.

by TMT on Feb 25, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

Below is a link of the priorities of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority

http://www.thenovaauthority.org/transaction2040/trans2040publications.html

by mcs on Feb 25, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

The board of estimate was effectively the upper house of a bicameral NYC legislative system. Its mandate covered a wide range of spending, zoning, etc. It was not a specialized body covering only transportation.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

"The board, composed of officials who become members as a matter of law upon their elections, has a significant range of fiscal and legislative functions common to municipal governments, including assisting in the formulation of the [p689] city's budget and controlling land use, contract, and franchise powers."

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

The Midland County Board of Commissioners was the County's legislature. Apples to oranges.

by Frank IBC on Feb 25, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

The Board of Estimate controlled the city budget. That's hardly a specialized function like transportation. Setting the budget is the most fundamental function of any legislative body.

by Frank IBC on Feb 25, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

The New York Board of Estimate was not a full legislative body, but only had some authority on appropriations and land use. Other powers were vested with the City Council. The NVTA will now have some authority on appropriations & other aspects of transportation, along with bonding authority. In the absence of the NVTA, these powers would lie with the General Assembly and/or city councils or county boards.

One person, one vote applies to school boards and other educational control bodies, even when they don't have taxing authority. The test is not whether the body has all of the powers of state or local government, but whether it has some general powers and can affect the citizenry.

by TMT on Feb 25, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

The NY Bd of estimate had equal control with the council over the entire city budget, IIRC, as well as special powers on contracting and land use. It was central to NYC governance, and indeed, membership on it was the only really significant of the borough presidents, who despite their title were in effect legislators.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper
Apparently, you did not notice that in Richmond all I-95 bridges are being replaced. Once you're trough Richmond and on your way to Petersburg, you'll find beautifully new asphalt. I-295 is fantastic for most of the way.

I sure did notice the 500+ million dollar bridge replacement program. I also noticed 3 years prior when the 95 overpasses over Boulevard and Robin Hood were jacked up with hydrolic lifts and then had steel I beams placed under then to keep them from collapsing. While they are tearing up that corridor they should have added a 4th lane in each direction to the 95/64 combo area, and gotten rid of that terrible K shaped intersection with 64 east merging onto 95 and Boulevard traffic exiting. Who ever striped that area should be fired, why 'drop' the merging 64 traffic for 10 feet then create an exit for Boulevard, wouldn't a "Right Lane Exit Only" sign be easier to understand? Let alone that terrible idea where the left lane of 64 and the right of 95 just become one lane with zero actual side by side area to merge properly. The awful pavement started at the Hanover/Caroline line, and continued all the way to at least the Franklin Street Exit, save a small repaved area near Dumbarton Rd overpass and again at Broad Street.

I went to gradschool at VCU and had to leave the area as I was so embarrassed by how terrible the roads are. No streetlights, no shoulder sweeping, they use a narrower further spaced post for guardrails, the only just recently repaved 295 and 64 that were for years asphalt patched concrete highways. I could come up with $1 billion in maintenance, and minor safety upgrades that add no additional capacity short of extending/changing entrance and exit ramp configurations needed just to the north side of Richmond alone up to snuff with the 21st century.

I think the plan that just passed is a drop in the bucket at addressing the transportation maintenance issues in VA, and am amazed that people are more worried about a few extra cents per gallon to the cost of their gas over having a transportation system that is well maintained and something to be proud of.

by Gull on Feb 25, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

@ Gull:Who ever striped that area should be fired, why 'drop' the merging 64 traffic for 10 feet then create an exit for Boulevard, wouldn't a "Right Lane Exit Only" sign be easier to understand?

Don't get me started on signage in VA. It is terrible.

I ... am amazed that people are more worried about a few extra cents per gallon to the cost of their gas over having a transportation system that is well maintained and something to be proud of.

That is because republicans are able to frame this debate as all being about tax increases, where tax increases are bad by definition. There is no sensible debate on what you get for your tax buck.

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

Gull, in the future it may be wise to take the Outer Loop around DC from Silver Spring. There is no construction on 495 near the Wilson Bridge though. All of the lanes have been opened for months. I know there were delays this weekend for opening the bridge, but the only construction is on the interchanges and did not harm the main travel lanes.

by selxic on Feb 25, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

No one points out that DC just got a lot more competitive for all of the new stores opening?

My wife and I have the option of going to Pentagon City Costco or DC Costco. They are similar distances. Pentagon City Costco is now MARKEDLY more expensive. On $200 in groceries every two weeks, I am now spending an extra $120 in tax to go to the Pentagon City Costco. I had been about 2/3 DC Costco and 1/3 Pentagon City Costco since DC Costco opened, but will now certainly be 100% DC Costco. I tend to think this will have more than a negligible effect state-wide.

by Kyle-W on Feb 25, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

@ Selxic,

I normally would take the outer loop (well, now that the HOT lane construction is done there), but that would have just added 10 miles to my story - *first 10 miles drove through a newly constructed mega highway*. The construction at the Wilson Bridge area (Telegraph Rd interchange specifically) was not blocking my flow, and I never did say I sat in traffic, I was just painting a picture of investment and construction in NOVA vs the disinvestment that is Richmond. And I actually chose to go the slightly longer route to swing through the Wawa and BJ's that are off the Ritchie Marlboro Rd exit on my way down Saturday morning.

As I've probably made clear however, driving through VA has never been one of my favorite things to do.

by Gull on Feb 25, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

"Don't get me started on signage in VA. It is terrible."

Besides the obvious difference in terms of road surface quality, to me this is the biggest difference between roads in Maryland and Virginia. Signage on interstates and other major arteries is far better in Maryland.

Most virginia highways are also dark while for the most part Maryland highways have plenty of lighting. Hopefully with new transportation funding northern virginia can finally fix the horrible conditions of its roads.

by P. Bateman on Feb 25, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

P. Bateman, the lighting is on purpose and part of Light pollution abatement. For highways I agree with this method, but for urban arterials I think it is a serious problem that is leading to dangerous conditions

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 25, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

@ Bateman:Signage on interstates and other major arteries is far better in Maryland. anywhere outside VA.

Although PA is pretty bad as well.
NC, MD, WV, & OH are all much better.

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

What a terrible bill. Yet another reason not to move back to NoVa. Sad.

by worthing on Feb 25, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

Cunningham v. Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, 751 F.Supp. 885 (W.D. Wash. 1990). This case applied One Person, One Vote to the governing board of the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle. It operated water pollution abatement and mass transit services. The court held (1) the entity has governmental powers; (2) majority of the
members of the council were elected; (3) “one person,
one vote” principle was thus applicable; and (4) degree of
disproportionate representation was excessive.

There are some similar cases to this one.

by TMT on Feb 25, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

Why do you think the nvta is elected?

Care to opine on the other constitutional argument, that the tax does not impose a uniform rate accross the state?

by JimT on Feb 26, 2013 12:22 am • linkreport

@ Tysons Engineer - if the lack of lighting on interstates was part of light pollution abatement, then why is 95 and 66 lined with those awful candle stick lights for 20+ miles CONTINUOUSLY, even in areas where there are no interchanges. MD did do that to 270, but all of the other highways in MD the lights were only placed at the interchanges, and as the state has been replacing the old lights with new ones, they only light the merge areas and sharper curved cloverleafs. I'd love to remove a few hundred of those un-necessary lights along 95 in Lorton and Woodbridge and gift them to dark 64/95 in Richmond.

Actually, you can see how bad those VA lights create light pollution as the beltway and 95 are quite easy to find on this image, shared by GGW this morning.

https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/status/306140223732084736/photo/1

by Gull on Feb 26, 2013 8:57 am • linkreport

Clearly, Mr. Schwartz has never visited southwestern Virginia. The only waste is from the uncompleted project's depreciation, due in no small part to the NoVa power center of Virginia politics. Please show me a comprehensive study refuting the claims that the Coalfields Expressway and US 460 improvements in rural Virginia would improve the region's economy.

by Adam NT on Feb 26, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@Adam:

The US 460 project refers to the new-location project between Suffolk and Petersburg. It clearly was selected to benefit the Port of Virginia, not to mention adjacent landowners. However, it doesn't really benefit the Port of Virginia if trucks can't get to it BECAUSE THEY'RE STUCK IN NORFOLK. So yes, a claim can be made that the 460 improvements would not improve things.

by Froggie on Feb 26, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

Ed Tennyson and I have already written up a variety of Virginia rail projects, some good, some better, some best.

We have agreed on the entire set of Virginia Light Rail lines but we are still working out the terminus of the Columbia Pike in DC. We both agree on going across the 14th Street highway bridge to at least Treasury.

I want to do a single track loop around the "pentagon" of streets just north of the White House. (The Georgia Ave Light Rail would use the same route as it's southern terminus but in reverse - Columbia say clockwise, Georgia counter-clockwise).

Ed sees value, as do I, in continuing up 14th Street to Columbia Heights Metro station.

I may write up the contingent plans today or tomorrow.

The rest at

http://oilfreedc.blogspot.com/

by Alan Drake (AlanfromBigEasy) on Jul 27, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

A quickly posted summary of Virginia Light Rail lines Ed Tennyson and I propose at
http://oilfreedc.blogspot.com/2013/07/virginia-light-rail-summary.html

by Alan Drake (AlanfromBigEasy) on Jul 27, 2013 10:19 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC