Get things moving in Richmond

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly convened its 2011 legislative session for the purpose of conducting the people’s business, just as it has done since first meeting at Jamestown in 1619.

The issues facing legislators will be daunting, as usual. Funding for public education and social services will be closely scrutinized. The role of government will be debated. Every item will be on the table when it comes to maintaining a constitutionally mandated balanced budget.

Few issues, however, will command as much attention or deserve final resolution as much as a comprehensive transportation bill. For years the General Assembly has booted about this political football and has been content to pass the issue along to the next session. The next session is here; the time for action is now.

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A comprehensive transportation bill is vital to the future economic stability and vitality of our region. Our economic future is inextricably linked to the port in Norfolk, specifically our ability to move cargo to and from the port and our major interstates. Access to and from the area’s military installations and tourist attractions is equally important.

Gridlocked traffic handicaps the economic viability of all the area’s important enterprises. Meanwhile, shovel-ready, unarguably important projects languish as legislators play politics with the commonwealth’s economic future and with the safety and sanity of its drivers.

Projects such as a third crossing of the Elizabeth River, the widening of Route 58 through Suffolk and upgrades to the Midtown Tunnel have been held up far too long by shortsighted legislators from rural districts who refuse to acknowledge the economic contribution Hampton Roads makes to the rest of the state and the damage that is done by continued inaction on the area’s transportation problems.

This year, we hope state legislators will take seriously the important business of the localities and constituents they were elected to serve. We can go a year without commending a high school basketball player on scoring his or her 1000th point or recognizing a farmer for growing a 900-pound pumpkin. We can’t, however, go another year without passing a comprehensive transportation bill.