Commission on the Future of Transportation in Virginia
July 14, 1999, Lynchburg
Chairman Robinson called the public hearing to order, explaining that its purpose, and that of other public hearings to be held throughout the state, was to take testimony concerning regional strategic transportation needs in order to set coherent statewide priorities.
The commission heard 18 presentations from elected local government officials, public works directors, transit system operators, trucking company executives, economic development officials, representatives of chambers of commerce and major business, and one member of the Virginia Senate. Pointing to Lynchburg's lack of direct access to the interstate highway system, most speakers stressed the need for:
- Improvements to US Route 460 (between Roanoke and Lynchburg) and US Route 501 (connecting Lynchburg to Buena Vista and I-81 to the north and the Raleigh-Durham area to the south);
- Construction of a US Route 29 bypass around Lynchburg (particularly around Madison Heights, northeast of the city) and Charlottesville;
- The establishment of regularly scheduled rail passenger service from Bristol via Lynchburg to Washington, DC, and Richmond; and
- Improvements to Lynchburg's air service (by extending the airport's runway in order to improve air freight service and by reducing the cost of air passenger service to and from the city).
Several speakers pointed to the need for greater state aid to mass transit in order permit expansion of existing service and extension of existing service to presently unserved areas, particularly city suburbs. There were frequent complaints that "cash flow problems" in the Virginia Department of Transportation had resulted in repeated postponement of many badly needed projects, starting a vicious circle in which delays cause increased costs which cause funding shortages which lead to further delays.
Several speakers suggested ways of generating increased revenues to allow these needs to be addressed more quickly. Those most frequently put forward were increases in the statewide motor fuels tax and sales tax, possibly used to support a statewide transportation bond issue. Some supporters of an increased sales tax urged that at least a portion of the increase be set aside for use by localities in meeting locally determined transportation needs. Speakers were not generally supportive of expanded use of tolls to fund transportation improvements.
The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold