Friday, October 07, 2005

Does the VTrans $203 billion add up?

No, says Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Piedmont Environmental Council, which calls the VDOT estimate of the state's transportation needs over 20 years a flawed analysis. The two groups put out a release yesterday with several links to supporting documents.

According to Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition, “All too many business leaders are treating VDOT’s shocking claim that we face $203 billion in transportation needs over 20 years (VTRANS 2025), including $108 billion for which we do not have funding, as an unassailable fact. That’s $5.4 billion dollars more each year, above the $4 billion per year we spend today.”

To raise this kind of money would require over a $1 per gallon increase in the state gas tax, or more than doubling our state sales tax to 10.8 percent, or a $900 vehicle registration fee. Some even want to take money from education and other General Fund needs. “The VDOT needs number is simply not realistic,” said Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “It is unaffordable and calls for a completely new approach to transportation and land use policies before we decide what additional funding we need to provide and what projects we should fund.”


At 9:02 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I think we all agree $203B is not a cost estimate, it's a wish list. As Jim notes, it is bsased on previous history that is not likely to repeat itself (women in the workforce, etc).

But we have absolutely no idea what a completely new approach to transportation and land use consists of, beyond some broad platitudes. Miller is going to have to provide something that is at least marginally less unrealistic than VDOT's plan if he expects to get any traction. So far we have nothing, and especially nothing with costs attached.

We can't wait another 30 years for him to come up with that. Whats worse, in the meantime he will unleash all his forces to fight, stall, delay, and increase the costs of whatever projects we try to fund with existing money. Then he'll point to high costs and say how inefficient VDOT is.

I figure (gross estimate) that delaying 66 construction in Gainesville from the time of the Disney debacle to today cost an additional $62 million.

If his idea of new transportation policies is reducing transportation demand and his idea of new land use policy is not using any land, then we need to hear how we are going to move our commerce and where we are going to live, and what it is going to cost. Until we have that, we have only one alternative to choose from.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

Okay, Stew -- we'll take half.

On postings like this Bob you should remind people who is paying your bills, as I sometimes do by signing on in behalf of Virginians for Better Transportation (SDH4VBT)

Few are seriously expecting us to raise that kind of money or even half that amount, and I always worry about studies like that which create such obvious targets easy to shoot down. ($1 on the gas tax! $900 in registration fees!) There are projects on there that won't be built, and I agree wouldn't be necessary with some changes in land use pattern or the long-term economic impact of rising gas prices. The underlying assumption of the report was steady demand growth.

But as a first stab and looking at the impact of growing population and congestion, and the cost of building what is necesary to maintain at least some level of mobility, the report has merit. It also made an effort -- not perfect, but a first appoximation -- to coordinate various modes.

When I hear reasonable talk from these folks about compromise and working together to move forward with more money spent more wisely, I don't think of Schwartz -- I think of Schulz. Charles, that is, and his character Lucy, who puts the football down and lures Charlie Brown into one more futile attempt at a field goal. At the key moment they always pull the ball away -- they want ZERO action.

We cannot stand still and let the situation continue to deteriorate. Doing nothing is a very popular idea with some, but it would an ecomomic suicide pill.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The reason that many people oppose any development whatsoever is that, at least in Fairfax County, development is subsidized by taxpayers: land development and permit fees, along with zoning services by almost $33 M over four years. The roads are so crowded that no one gets anywhere on time, yet taxpayers are compelled to pay for the Economic Development Authority to advertise for more people and businesses to come to Fairfax County. The very same builders that pay $15 K per new home for schools in Stafford County and $16 K per new house in Loudoun, pay $7 K in Fairfax County. County Executive Tony Griffin warned the Fairfax County supervisors that a new wastewater treatment systems must be built if the supervisors approve any development beyond what's already in the Comprehensive Plan. Of course, the supervisors are h-bent to add tens of thousands of new homes and condos to the county.

If development is so good, why have Fairfax County real estate taxes gone up by double digits for the last five years? It's not as if we have anything to show for those huge tax increases. Our schools are jammed (with 7th graders being forced to eat lunch before10 am); traffic gets worse monthly; the parks are overused; etc.

Moreover, Fairfax County gets screwed by the state. We pump billions in taxes into Richmond, but get nothing in return. For example, the Senate Finance Committee estimates that Warner's tax reform will cost Fairfax County residents an additional $108 M this year, for which we got a whole $13 M in new state aid for public schools.

I am open to anyone's explanation as to why someone in Fairfax County should support more growth here.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Well, talk to EMR, he'll give you plenty of reasons why Fairfax should increase its density.


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