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Virginia's transportation woes, by Cord Sterling
The New Jersey Turnpike has collected tolls from out-of-state drivers for decades.
AP PHOTO/NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY
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TRANSPORTATION has long been a hot topic in Virginia, with solutions to our challenges eluding governors and other policymakers from both parties for decades. Yet, with each passing year, those challenges become more critical, the solutions more elusive.
The problem is getting so bad that recent national surveys on economic competitiveness see Virginia on a downward slide because of our transportation infrastructure.
I think I can speak for the general mood of most Virginians when I say we want our roads fixed, fixed now, and we don't want to hear about how much it costs or why we can't afford it all without some sort of change to current revenue streams for the transportation trust fund.
These challenges start at the federal level, where a percentage of the funds collected in Virginia are siphoned off and sent to other states and localities--Chicago and San Francisco certainly fared well under the so-called "stimulus" program, and a number of others receive more than they generate annually.
The federal government then tells us how to spend much of what remains and loads upon us one expensive mandate after another. They use the power of the almighty federal tax code and federal regulations to encourage the development and purchase of alternative fuel and more-efficient vehicles--thereby reducing revenues from the sale of gasoline that is supposed to fund the roads on which we all travel.
And then they require us to divert more funds away from the roads to other "priorities" to demonstrate our enlightened view of the world.
At the local level we add roads to the system for the state to maintain, to request--nay demand--new projects, and then demand they be canceled once we have spent our precious few dollars on an environmental impact or design to nowhere (at least nowhere once it is canceled)--all the while insisting that VDOT become more efficient.
In Virginia, the problem is compounded by all the people traveling through it--heading to Florida for the winter, New England for the summer, or points in between. These travelers not only contribute to the wear and tear on those roads, they also contribute to the congestion that so plagues our commonwealth.