Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Shucet Solution: Complete Our Highway Network

The fifth of Philip Shucet's written recommendations to the state senate task force studying transportation policy is to complete the state's highway network, including a number of mega-projects:

  • Another Potomac River crossing and north-south alternative for Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia
  • A third crossing in Hampton Roads
  • The Coalfields Expressway
  • Four-laning of U.S. 58 to Interstate 77
  • A U.S. 29 bypass around Charlottesville
  • Improvements to Interstate 81 such as truck-climbing lanes
  • Improvements to Interstate 64 between Richmond and Hampton Roads
  • Repair of all structurally deficient bridges across the Commonwealth
"I understand the sentiment that we cannot pave our way out of congestion," Shucet writes by way of preface. "But a few facts are still inescapable." Nearly all goods reach their final destination by truck; 91 percent of all workers go to work in a car. "Virginia needs to complete and improve its most essential roadways."

And how would he pay for all of this? "I believe Governor Baliles' plan to use Virginia's Interstate system as a statewide source of revenue dedicated to specific projects merits strong consideration as a means of funding and building priority corridor projects across the Commonwealth."

It's important to understand what Shucet is saying here: Yes, he is advocating raising $1 billion a year in new toll revenues for major new road projects. But all of these projects would improve mobility between metropolitan areas, not within them. Their function is economic development, not congestion mitigation.


At 8:06 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Since 1970 population is up 30%, vehicles are up 60%, travel is up 120%, and new roadway is up 6%. The US Dept of Transportation estimates that tolls will become a substantial part of new road revenue sources but it will not be sufficient to meet the needs.

Then there is the matter of repairs. If a deficient bridge causes 200 trucks a day to detour only five miles, that works out to $180,000 a year.

The magazine Logistics Today has a list of the fifty most accessible cities. Norfolk is #17 and Richmond is #40, otherwise Virginia is absent from the list. This does not bode well for economic advancement in Virginia.

It costs ten times as much, or more to build a mile of roadway in urban areas, and rural areas offer the highest proportion of lightly used roadways, and also the highest proportion of poorly designed and ill-maintained roadways. If you believe that we must limit growth where insufficient infrastructure exists, then at least as far as roads are concerned, you have to believe that the first place growth should be limited is in the urban areas.

At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's start by limiting growth in Fairfax County! It's over-developed and under-infrastructured.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger COD said...

What if we drastically reduced taxes to the point that 25% more families could live on one income? That would bring about (rather quickly too) up to a 25% reduction in cars on the road during rush hour.

Instant traffic improvement and not one square inch of land is required to be paved over in the process.

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous SDH4VBT said...

I'm sorry, Jim -- when did economic development become a bad policy goal? I'm not sure your characterization of those projects is completely fair, but even if it is, so what? When Lincoln pushed through his little railroad and homestead bills, would you have been with the bike-helmet crowd complaining about the lack of transportation alternatives?
(Yeah, I think you would have been.)

A bypass around C-ville will work wonders for the folks who have to live and work there, especially (and I have no problem with this) if it is truly limited access.

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is improving transit between centers so Important? I don't recall ever having major problems on such trips except for holiday periods.

On the other hand, in-town trips are ALWAYS a problem.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

If development is so good for Virginia, why are local taxes skyrocketing and some members of the General Assembly wanting to raise state taxes again, after they worked with Mark Warner to enact the largest state tax increase in history?

One can make a strong argument that the development of further oil drilling is good for Alaska, where residents don't pay state personal income or sale taxes and receive an annual cash rebate from the state.

I don't think that one could make the same argument about development being beneficial to the average Virginian.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

Toomanytaxes: I'm not hearing any interest in raising taxes other than the area of transportation, which was conspicious by its absence in 2004. And interest there is tepid, at best.

But the benefits to Virginians of a growing economy, the jobs created in the construction industry and the businesses that serve new housing areas, retail areas, etc. shouldn't be hard to see. Static really isn't a choice. I make no bones about being pro growth. It can be properly planned and managed, but not stifled.

There are lots of reasons for local tax increases and if you want to find ever expanding spending and programs and government on steroids, start with some of those localities. It isn't just the schools and libraries and fire stations for the new neighborhoods.


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