September 27, 2006
The Virginia General Assembly is conving in a special session to iron out a compromise on funding transportation improvements. It now appears that Gov. Kaine's proposed broad-based tax hike is all but dead, a triumph for fiscal restraint. The Commonwealth Transportation Board has come out with a sensible compromise solution to the traffic congestion on Interstate 81, only widening certain "choke-points" such as hills and urban areas. See Richmond Times Dispatch. This basically sounds the death knell for the extreme eight-lane proposal of Star Solution, Inc. (See Feb. 8, 2005 blog post for background.) If gasoline prices start going up again (a very small "if"), traffic is likely to stabilize or even decline, obviating the need for wider superhighways.
Staunton's News Leader recently warned the local anti-tax Republican legislators that they had better get realistic in fashioning a compromise soon: "No more passes," the headline reads, implying that the editors' support of elected officials is a precious commodity not to be taken for granted. I think our delegates -- Chris Saxman, Steve Landes, and Ben Cline -- deserve major credit for standing up to pressure from the bureaucratic establishment, i.e., VDOT. Delegate Landes penned an op-ed piece that emphasized the necessity of reforming the ways that transportation projects are carried out. Too often they end up as gold-plated, over-wrought boondoggles.
Here's an alternative transportation funding solution that would raise millions of dollars very quickly: Just levy a $100 fine on every truck that parks along exit ramps and rest areas. Among the side benefits, that would also ease traffic congestion on I-81, give more business to truck stops and motels, and make rail transportation more competitive. Rest stops in Virginia at night have become dangerously overcrowded with semi-trailer trucks that are basically freeloading at the public's expense. Enough of that, already!