HJR 519

Commission on the Future of Transportation in Virginia

September 3, 1997, Richmond

Transportation Needs

The meeting began with a presentation by the former staff director of a 1986 transportation commission, who observed that the 1986 study had compiled what it considered a conservative list of the Commonwealth's transportation needs and that the present study showed how quickly Virginia had developed needs unanticipated only a decade ago. Unless significant changes are made in land use planning and other aspects of government, he expected the same exercise would have to be repeated in another 10 to 15 years. He identified six factors "driving" the ever-increasing acceleration in transportation needs:

1. Growth in population;

2. Increase in vehicle miles traveled within Virginia;

3. Increase in vehicle miles traveled through Virginia (by traffic with neither an origin nor a destination within the state);

4. Land use changes (suburbanization resulting in inherently inefficient and automobile-dependent transportation);

5. Tendencies of local governments to "overzone" for business and offices and "underzone" for housing (because the gap between the taxes generated by residential property and demands for services generated by this property is greater than that between taxes generated by business and office property and the demands for service that such property generates); and

6. Increase in commuting between one suburb and another, rather than between suburbs and central cities.

Given these facts, he suggested that rather than building more highways, Virginia should be seeking to make more intensive use of existing transportation infrastructure and strengthening the planning ability of planning district commissions and metropolitan planning organizations. He concluded that Virginia should restrict growth in certain regions and channel the growth that occurs elsewhere, stating that it was "time that localities and not developers manage and control growth" and that "things are going to get worse, even if we do our best."

Draft Report

The panel then turned to a discussion of staff's draft of the commission's report on transportation needs in Virginia, based on the work of the Advisory Committee on Transportation Needs. Virginia's transportation secretary raised several objections to elements of the draft, particularly:

  • Inclusion of an inflation factor in estimating project costs,
  • Several "errors in reading the data" submitted by VDOT, and
  • "Short shrift" given to the impact of additional federal aid from the new federal highway program.

The Commission agreed to request staff to rewrite the draft, using "Scenario III" (aggressive-growth scenario) for the public transportation portion of the report, "to the maximum extent feasible." Following a far-ranging general discussion of the draft by the members, Delegate Dickinson directed staff to discuss the meeting's deliberations with the Chairman and Vice Chairman and prepare a revised draft report on transportation needs for discussion at the full panel's next meeting.

The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold