Friday, October 28, 2005

Transportation Transformation

I'm back from the 54th Virginia Transportation Conference in Roanoke, where I spent the better part of the day, participating briefly as a speaker but most listening to what others had to say. The conference was designed to push the boundaries of conventional thinking about transportation. The theme: "Investing in Mobility and Accessibility."

To my mind, the most noteworthy comments were those of Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer. While noting the tightening constraints on transportation capacity, Homer argued that Virginia should nevertheless make maintenance its top priority -- "take care of what we have." Also, he said, Virginia should change its emphasis from increasing transportation capacity to managing demand through such means as telecommuting, ride sharing and congestion pricing.

Has Virginia, Homer asked, fully explored all the transportation options? Like shifting freight to rail? Or slug lines? "The public," he said, "is not convinced that we have looked at alternatives to traditional transportation solutions."

I had to leave before Gov. Mark R. Warner addressed the conference at the very end of the day. It would have been interesting to see if he built on Homer's remarks. (The only reporter I saw there was Road to Ruin's own Bob Burke.) Several speakers spoke of the need to increase taxes to add more road and rail capacity, but none of the tax talk came from the Warner administration. Gov. Warner is on the way out, but it still matters what he thinks. The budget he submits this December for consideration by the 2006 session of the General Assembly will provide the starting point for debate.


At 9:52 AM, Anonymous SDH said...

Our old colleague Ray Reed was there for The Roanoke Times.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I'm not too excited about shifting freight to rail. Seems to me that works for long haul, or low priority. After it gets off the rail, it still has to go by truck, so you don't save much in the end. But if you need it there now, or if "there" doesn't happen to be near a rail terminal then you go by truck anyway.

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