Transportation, the ‘Virginia Way’Published 10:44pm Monday, February 25, 2013
By Gov. Bob McDonnell
This past weekend, Republicans and Democrats joined together to pass the first new sustainable transportation funding and reform bill in Virginia in 27 years. Virginians worked together across party and regional lines to find common ground to solve one of our most intractable problems.
The result is $3.5 billion in new transportation funding over the next five years, an estimated 35-percent reduction in the tax on gas at the pump, a shorter commute for you and the strengthening of Virginia’s economic competitiveness.
This bill is a compromise. It had to be. The House of Delegates has a strong Republican majority. But the Senate is tied, 20-20. That means to get any major bill passed, everyone had to find common ground. For 27 years you’ve sat in traffic as too many have waited for a “perfect” bill. That failure to act has cost you and the commonwealth dearly.
Every year that Richmond has failed to act has added up to a bigger and bigger hidden transportation tax that you are paying. The Texas Transportation Institute found that our failure to approve new transportation funding, and the resulting congestion, costs every motorist in Northern Virginia $1,400 a year; every driver in Virginia Beach $877 a year; and every commuter in Richmond $581 a year. Those are hidden taxes that you’ve been paying for years.
Virginia’s economy depends upon our transportation system. Without good roads, rail, transit and bridges we cannot attract the new businesses that will create the good-paying jobs our citizens need and deserve.
I agree with President Ronald Reagan, who said in 1982, when he more than doubled the nation’s gas tax: “We simply cannot allow this magnificent system to deteriorate beyond repair. The time has come to preserve what past Americans spent so much time and effort to create, and that means a nationwide conservation effort in the best sense of the word. America can’t afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems. The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.”
A continued failure to address transportation would leave the commonwealth less competitive economically. In fact, just last year CNBC dropped Virginia to 3rd in its annual ranking of “Best States for Business” in large part because of our repeated inability to properly fund transportation. We plummeted from 10th to 33rd in the specific category of “Transportation and Infrastructure.” That is unacceptable.
I ran and was blessed to be elected on a pledge to make Virginia a jobs-magnet and to do everything I could to help our state attract more employers so our citizens could get the good jobs they need and deserve. This transportation plan helps us do that.
Conservatives believe we must grow our economy by allowing the private sector to thrive and create. For that to happen, we must provide private-sector job creators with the infrastructure they must have to be successful.
As a result of this plan, thousands of construction and maintenance projects around the state will be funded — widening I-64 between Newport News and Williamsburg, widening Route 28 in Northern Virginia, bringing down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and advancing the Silver Line, bringing Amtrak service to Roanoke, and helping to build the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. Thousands of new jobs will be created.
Before this vote, it was projected that by the year 2018 we would have been transferring $500 million meant for construction to just fund simple maintenance projects. There would have been virtually no new money available for new construction projects. Now, this problem has been solved for the foreseeable future.
You elected me to come to Richmond and focus on growing our economy and creating good jobs in every region of the commonwealth. Without a modern and well-funded transportation system, our future economic growth would remain in jeopardy.
Private sector job-creators would have a harder time moving goods to market, expanding their enterprises, and hiring new workers. And your commute would just grow longer, the money you waste sitting in traffic would increase, and your quality of life would diminish. We could not afford to let that happen.
With the passage of this legislation we’ve demonstrated there is still a “Virginia Way.” Richmond is not Washington. In Richmond, we cut out rhetoric and work together to fix problems and get results.
This bill will strengthen our economy, get you to work and home quicker, and create thousands of jobs. It is a commonsense solution that will make Virginia stronger in the years ahead.
Bob McDonnell is the 71st Governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. Visit his website at www.governor.virginia.gov.