Commission on the Future of Transportation in Virginia
September 28, 1999, Fairfax
Chairman Robinson explained that the purpose of the meeting, and that of other public hearings to be held throughout the Commonwealth, was to take testimony concerning regional strategic transportation needs in order to set coherent statewide priorities.
The commission heard 14 presentations from elected local government officials; representatives of business associations, environmental groups, and civic associations; transportation planners and consultants; and individual citizens. In spite of their diversity of backgrounds and points of view, all the speakers were agreed on a few central points:
In addition to these points of consensus, the commission was urged by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to recommend "taking the politics out of transportation planning" by replacing the present planning process used by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board with a more objective system of transportation planning and prioritizing. Such a system, it was suggested, would produce a more "seamless, multimodal, statewide" transportation system than the present system, "chopped into regions and localities." The consultants to the chamber gave an overview of their alternative transportation planning and prioritizing methodology, based on assignment of points to competing projects according to a list of specific criteria, and invited the members to examine the details of their proposal in documents prepared for and provided by the chamber.
- While the size of Northern Virginia is geographically small, the number of people who live, work, and travel there is huge.
- The imbalance between size on the one hand, and population and economic activity on the other, places a considerable strain on the region's resources in general, and on its financial and transportation resources in particular.
- High population densities contribute to high real estate prices, and lack of space and high cost of right-of-way make it impossible to meet the region's transportation needs through strategies based solely or largely on highway construction.
- Continued rapid growth in both population and vehicle-miles-traveled in Northern Virginia adds urgency to the need to address regional transportation problems.
- Inadequate coordination of land use and transportation planning have exacerbated both suburban sprawl and traffic gridlock.
- Failure to deal with the region's transportation problems promptly and aggressively will result in damage to the environment and the quality of life.
Individual speakers urged increasing the use of telecommuting; expanding use of railroads (rather than trucks) to haul cargoes; returning at least a portion of state transportation revenues to local governments and authorizing them to construct and operate their own highway systems (paralleling the control by Arlington and Henrico Counties of their own secondary highway systems); increasing and intensifying efforts to identify, with Maryland, additional highway crossings of the Potomac River; and generally "revising the tax structure." Several speakers observed that the core problem with transportation planning was not so much a failure to make adequate plans, but a failure to make resources available to carry out the plans that have been made. One speaker specifically advocated the abandonment of the Western Transportation Corridor project.
At the conclusion of the meeting the chairman announced his intention to hold the panel's next public hearing in Southeast Virginia on October 18 and his hope to have a hearing Western Virginia as well.
The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold