Friday, June 17, 2005

The Six-Year Transportation Plan: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The VTrans2025 transportation vision for the next 20 years paid hommage to a broad range of transportation strategies: harmonizing transportation and land use planning, applying information technologies to improve operational efficiencies of existing assets, encouraging shared ridership and otherwise managing demand. Now comes the Commonwealth's latest Six-Year transportation plan, in which we can see that all the discussion of alternatives was nothing more than lip service.

According to an Associated Press story, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a plan Thursday to spend $9.4 billion on highways, rail and public transportation projects over six years. Sayeth the AP:

The bulk of the spending--$7 billion--will be for 2,029 highway projects, including 103 new ones. The six-year plan also allocates $1.5 billion for rail and public transportation and $900 million, more than half of it federal dollars, for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The plan does represent an improvement over previous plans in at least one regard: It is fiscally responsible, based upon realistic revenue projections -- not the kind of fantasy projections that prevailed under the Gilmore administration. Also noteworthy: The plan includes $247 million to pay off deficits on completed projects, another legacy of the Gilmore years.

But virtually the entire capital spending plan will go to new road and mass transit projects. The pittance not dedicated to roads and rail, says the AP, goes to "safety and enhancement projects, signs, guardrails and other improvements that do not have construction phases." VDOT has posted a detailed listing of the projects here. I haven't been able to scroll through all 203 pages to see if any money will be spent on coordination with local land use planners, traffic modeling systems, traffic light synchronization, ramp metering, expansion of the incident management system, tele-work, demand management, ride sharing or other alternative strategies, but my hunch is that there's nothing more than crumbs.

I'm happy for someone to disabuse me of the notion--indeed, I hope someone does--but this plan looks like a complete and total victory of the big construction lobbies.


At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Joe Freeman said...

In the light of his article that the T-D published last Sunday, why not invite Jerry McCarthy to do a guest column for BR explaining why the Board didn't provide any funding for the next six years for anything but roads and rail?

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous SDH4VBT said...

I'm not an expert on this but I know some of the things Jim is talking about are included. There are specific earmarked federal funds for congestion management, for example, and you may see more in the next federal bill. Many of the others are available to local governments and local VDOT engineers as they spend their lump sum maintenance and secondary road monies. A plan that got into that level of locality by locality detail would run another 200 pages or more. In many cases I bet VDOT suggests those steps and the local supervisor or city councillor says, no, my constituents want...a road. You preach the free market Jim and complain about the consumer's choices.


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