Friday, February 03, 2006

House GOP Wants a Different VDOT

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates outlined their plans to 'reform' how the state's transportation decisions are handled, and their ideas include changes at VDOT and for the Commonwealth Transportation Board.Says The Free Lance-Star this morning:
'The bills they listed yesterday include provisions to contract out all maintenance work to private companies; increase local authority and responsibility for local roads; give the General Assembly the power to appoint some of the members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (all members of the CTB are currently gubernatorial appointments); and create a commission that would have oversight of transportation agencies, especially when the legislature is not in session.

'Del. Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the Virginia Department of Transportation is "absolutely impervious to human intervention."

'The bills include one that would encourage private companies to construct roads in exchange for "concession agreements" such as tolls. Another bill would increase the amount allotted to "revenue sharing agreements" with localities, in which localities pay for part of the cost of a road project to help build it faster. The Republicans also want regular reports from the state's transportation commissioner on the efforts of VDOT to privatize, outsource or downsize projects.'
Speaker of the House Bill Howell and others say the financing details will come out later.
'"We believe that the transportation problems in Virginia are much larger than just dollars and cents," said Del. Cliff Athey, R-Front Royal.'


At 2:20 PM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

I am very encouraged to see that the House is considering more outsourcing of highway and roadway maintenance. As I argued in a recent column, the potential savings could reach $200 million a year. Other writers have suggested that the savings could be much bigger.

The idea of "revenue sharing" sharing agreements with localities is intriguing. Pending the release of details, I might go even farther. Responsibility -- and funds -- for building and maintaining secondary roads should be turned over to local governments entirely. That way, the same unit of government would be responsible for land use decisions and building the transportation infrastructure to support those decisions.

There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that the private sector can construct new roadways much more quickly and cost effectively than state government. That also is to be encouraged.

In sum, the House hasn't developed a comprehensive transportation package, but they've brought some good ideas to the table.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I don't have a problem with outsourcing maintenance. Maybe some Mexican company will bid and bring in all the labor. That could save us a bunch. Or some hyperefficient German enginneering firm. Or a Japanese outfit with all robotic road crews.

Yep. All we gotta do is sit on the porch, won't even need the roads to go to work, let th' frners do it.

I do have a problem with outsourcing the revenue collection associated with roads. If that ever comes to pass, we will rue the day.

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: That way, the same unit of government would be responsible for land use decisions and building the transportation infrastructure to support those decisions. "

Senator Houck stated at a recent forum that every year 200 lane miles are added to VDOT's system and that virtually all of it is local roads built to serve new development (subdivision roads).

There are important and relevant aspects.

First, every new mile increases the amount of money that must be devoted to maintenance and away from construction. This is fundamental to the argument of those who say we can build our way out of congestion. The plain fact is the more we build - the more we need to maintain and the less we will have for construction.

So, really, the more we build - the more than taxpayers will have to pay to maintain. Is this really sustainable?

But it's much worse than that, because under the current regime, localities make land-use decisions that have profound consequences that, until now, are consequences for VDOT and other taxpayers.

Most localities, do minimal traffic impact studies for new development often accepting studies paid for by the applicant rather than requiring that the applicant pay the locality to contract with an independent consultant for the study.

Finally, trip generation for residential development is not an obscure field. FHWA, AASHTO, and VDOT pretty much agree that each new residence will generate about 10 trips per day - that's right.

But almost all localities, to date, and incredibily even VDOT worry mostly about the entrance and immediate locale associated with the new development - and not what happens to those ten trips when they eventually get to an arterial or expressway.

VDOT keeps traffic counts, and they can project using growth data the increase in traffic on such roads, and they can even draw up an upgrade plan sans money of course.

This is not a rant about the evils of development. People DO have to have a place to live and work but these decisions have consequences in terms of the infrastructure needed to serve them.

Some say folks can and should work and live where they please.

Yes, but who pays for the infrastructure?

Currently, the localities claim that they lack "tools" to manage growth and that, in the end, it is VDOT's problem. VDOT has absolutely no problem with putting yet another road on the "list" of unfunded and unfundable projects. Their job is to build roads.

Think about this. Does VDOT think about MOBILITY (multi-modal) and efficiency and the efficacy of the transportation network?

Is their mission ONLY to build more roads?

Are localities free to accept as much development as they wish - while ignoring the infrastructure consequences?

This is why it's not a money problem per se. It's really about who pays and who plans and what you buy - and finally - whether what you buy - is cost effective.

Take a look at the State Auditor report and you'll get the answer to planning and funding.

Fix the things in the Auditors report and you start to make a dent in Virginia's Transportation problems.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it. We need reform. Now, which party has run the General Assembly for six years now? Which party had two of the last three governors? (And it was the Democrat who worked hard on improving VDOT -- some think the Republicans destroyed it in the first place.)

They want proffers and local matching funds so that the localities bear the burden and take the heat, and at the same time many of them will campaign saying they voted for caps on local tax revenue growth. They want to sell our highways to foreign investors and make us pay tolls for 40 years to buy our roads back (with a management cut for the Aussies.) Oh hypocrisy, thy name is Republican.

At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One observation upon reading an article about the car tax "relief" and some irony that cannot be overlooked.

The car tax WAS collected by localities and much hated by most who own autos - most people.

Localities depended on the revenue so Gilmore and company decided to rebate to localities some of the money from state revenue.

NOW... members of the GA and Kaine want to do what? Increase taxes on cars to pay for transportation AND give to localities transportation and land-use decisions.


So what is different?

What is different is that before when localities collected the car tax, they did NOT spend it on transportation but rather used it in their general revenue funds for the most part.

And transportation? Why that was VDOT's job of course and no one cared whether VDOT had enough money to actually build what was in the 6yr plan - as long as their local projects where listed in that 6 year (sic) plan (sic).

So it seems to be a certain irony with respect to who got the car tax money - and what they actually used those monies for.

What has changed, almost imperceptively is that now, it seems clear that the money collected will, in fact, be dedicated to transportation.

Which, if one thinks about this, should have been, all along, what localities actually used that money for in the first place ... and did not.

Had that been the case, Gilmore's "plan" would have been recognized from the get-go as a bad one - that is if localities actually had been spending it for transportation.


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