Localities demand transportation fix

Published 8:50 pm Saturday, September 8, 2012

Suffolk’s Mayor Linda T. Johnson this week became one of 38 mayors and chairpersons from the state’s “Urban Crescent” to sign onto a letter demanding action on transportation from the General Assembly.

The letter highlights the need for additional funding for transportation infrastructure needs. The officials from Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia met in June to discuss the issues and concluded that the state’s transportation system is “significantly underfunded and the situation continues to deteriorate,” according to the letter.

By 2017, the state will have no money left for highway construction or to fully match federal funds, the letter continues. Commuters in Hampton Roads waste 34 hours every year stuck in traffic — a figure that rises to 74 hours in Northern Virginia. Thirty-six percent of VDOT-maintained roads in Hampton Roads are in poor condition.

Email newsletter signup

Meanwhile, the encompassed localities make up only 24 percent of the state’s land area but include 68 percent of its population and generate 79 percent of the gross product.

“We also experience some of the worst traffic in the nation, and the condition of our roads and bridges continues to decline,” the letter states.

The repercussions, according to the letter, already are being felt. In the CNBC rankings of “America’s Top States for Business,” the state’s overall ranking dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, and its ranking for infrastructure and transportation dropped from No. 10 to No. 33.

The letter calls inaction on transportation a “traffic tax” on localities, residents, visitors and businesses in the form of decreased productivity, diminished quality of life, higher fuel costs, higher maintenance costs and increased pollution.

The letter includes a statement of purpose that calls for increases in state transportation funding from new, stable, reliable, permanent and balanced sources.

“We, the mayors and chairs of the Urban Crescent, support the General Assembly and encourage our elected state leaders to take bold action to address this crisis.”

Johnson referenced the letter in Wednesday’s City Council meeting, saying it “sends a message to the General Assembly.”

She also said it includes a “list of options that might work, might not work.”

The letter was sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell, and the majority and minority leaders of both houses, in addition to 122 senators and delegates who represent the Urban Crescent communities.