SJR 60: Virginia's Future Transportation Needs
October 13, 2006
The joint subcommittee,
chaired by Senator Williams, met on October 13, 2006, at Old Dominion
University. Several guest speakers were invited to make presentations
at the meeting.
Ekern - Commissioner of Transportation
his experiences in Minnesota and Idaho, as well as the American Association
of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to illustrate initiatives
and policy developments that are changing the face of the nation’s
transportation agencies. He explained that, since the completion of the
Interstate Highway System in the early 1990's, highway transporta-tion
programs across the country have been changing to meet the challenges
of the post-Interstate environment. He stated that the Virginia Department
of Transportation (VDOT) was experiencing these changes, too, evolving
from a public works, project-focused, "reactive" agency to one
that is more mobility- or outcomes-focused, customer-oriented, and performance-driven.
Commissioner Ekern told the members that 21st century transportation programs
would be characterized by increased use of intelligent transportation
systems technologies and increased cooperation both among state and federal
transportation agencies and more numerous public-private partner-ships,
linking the governmental and private sectors of the economy.
In discussing the
National Highway System (NHS), the Commissioner pointed out that, while
Virginia has both more route-miles and lane-miles of non-NHS components,
more vehicle miles are traveled in the Common-wealth on NHS components.
Several members asked Commissioner Ekern to provide the members with a
clearer understanding of who decides what highways become NHS components,
the basis for that decision, and a map of the NHS in Virginia.
The discussions turned
to questions of the transfer of control of certain Virginia highways to
local governments. The Commissioner cautioned the members that devolution
to local governments would involve both pluses and minuses. He stated
that the transition would need to be carefully planned, cautiously managed,
and performance-driven with particular attention to system ownership,
function and design, funding, and the conversion process itself. A carefully
revised business plan for VDOT, he stressed, would be essential.
Whirley, Sr. - Chief Deputy Commissioner of Transportation
Whirley briefed the members on VDOT's maintenance and operations functions,
emphasiz-ing the rapidly rising costs of all aspects of highway system
maintenance. He noted that statewide maintenance needs increased from
$2.9 billion in 2004 to $3.3 billion only one year later. He also drew
the members’ attention to the increased use by VDOT of an asset
management system to predict maintenance needs and allocate maintenance
resources both functionally and geographically. He reminded the members
that VDOT is in the process of outsourcing its maintenance functions to
the private sector state-wide and pointed out that all contracts for maintenance
would be performance-based. Considerable additional detail was supplied
in materials distributed to the members.
Karim - Old Dominion University (ODU)
Karim briefed the members on Strategies for Disruption-Free Movement of
Merchandise and People. He painted a broad picture of Virginia's place
in a rapidly globalizing world economy and the many changes that globalization
would necessitate in the Commonwealth's transportation infrastructure.
He proposed that ODU initiate the following:
• Utilize ODU’s
engineering and computational programs to develop a systems engineering
means to identify, define, and characterize inland transportation hub
alternatives for the Commonwealth.
• Engage an unconventional team of transportation psychologists,
economists, and supply-chain logistics experts to develop real-time visualization
tools for related decision making and policy deliberations.
• Utilize ODU’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation
Center (VMASC) and International Maritime, Ports, and Logistics Management
Institute in this effort.
• Utilize discrete-event and physics-based simulation mathematical
tools to identify optimum inland transportation hubs and transportation
networks for the Hampton Roads region.
Dr. Karim estimated
that the comprehensive ODU engineering research he proposed would cost
the Commonwealth $1.77 million.
Easter - Easter Associates
spoke on behalf of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.
He noted the rapidly rising costs of maintenance due in large measure
to escalating prices for materials such as asphalt, cement, and steel.
He stated that most Interstate Highway System components are now twenty-years-old
or older and that there are insuffi-cient resources from reliable, sustainable,
and predictable sources available to cover actual maintenance needs. He
pointed to a point of "cross-over" a few years ago, when resources
that otherwise would have funded the Commonwealth's highway construction
program had been redirected instead to fund maintenance of existing assets.
The collapse of the housing and commercial building market and the unavailability
of resources adequate to fully fund Virginia's highway maintenance needs
were putting many contractors out of business.
Mr. Easter mentioned
that he had no particular objection to the transfer of highway maintenance
responsibilities to Virginia's local governments, if localities were provided
with sufficient financial and other requisite resources. He cautioned
that devolution of responsibility for maintenance to local governments
might eliminate some economies of scale that VDOT presently enjoys. In
conclusion, Mr. Easter made the following recommendations:
the entire VDOT procurement process with a goal of making it more performance-based.
• VDOT move from the use of financial penalties to the use of financial
incentives in performance measurements.
• A more extensive use of design-build contracts and other innovative
The next meeting
of the joint subcommittee is scheduled for November 27, 2006, at 10 a.m.
at the General Assembly Building in Richmond.
The Hon. Martin
The Hon. Leo C.
Alan Wambold and
Stephanie, DLS Staff
of Legislative Services > Legislative
Record > 2006
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