Virginia’s New Governor Shows His Cards: No Plan for Transportation

Three months ago, Ryan Avent wrote on this page about Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds' (D) ill-fated push to make transportation a central part of his campaign. The peril was clear to Ryan at the time: With little political appetite for congestion pricing and a stalled federal transport bill, Deeds had big ideas but no way to deliver them to voters.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a621ca48970b_600wi.jpgVirginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will take office tomorrow. (Photo: LAT)
Deeds ultimately lost to Republican Bob McDonnell, for reasons that went far beyond transportation. But the fallout from both Virginia candidates' failures to seriously address slow transit expansion and crippling congestion has only just begun. As the Washington Post reports today:
Despite making transportation a top priority during last year's campaign, Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Thursday that he will not propose a fix during this year's legislative session.

"There are only so many things the General Assembly and I can do well in a short period of time," McDonnell said in an interview. "I don't think that there are enough hours in the day for the General Assembly to evaluate that plan and for me to build the consensus to get it passed."

As a candidate, McDonnell pledged to tackle transportation right away, and as recently as last month he said he would propose ways to fund transportation "at some point during his first year."

The piece goes on to quote McDonnell, touted by the GOP as an emerging national leader, leaving the door open for a possible special session to deal with the $893 million swoon in Virginia's transportation budget -- but only if he is guaranteed to win:

"We are not going to go into a session and fail," he said. "That's a waste of taxpayers' money."

McDonnell didn't opine on whether the state's broken transport system is more or less of a "waste of taxpayers' money" than legislators attempting to fix the problem.

In the meantime, he vowed to press on with four transportation plans that make no attempt to address the state's revenue crisis: reopening highway rest stops that were closed last year to save money, raising speed limits on rural interstates, forging public-private partnerships for road projects, and issuing bonds.

Some voters may be left to wonder whether the 2009 campaign would have ended differently had Deeds made the connection between reining in pollution and improving transportation options, rather than taking a McDonnell-influenced line against action on climate change.