“Anti-Livability” Bills Threaten to Clip Arlington’s Wings

A pair of bills making their way through Virginia’s House of Delegates threaten to slam the brakes on smart growth and livability efforts in Arlington and throughout Northern Virginia.

     Virginia House Delegate Jim LeMunyon wants to make highways and congestion reduction the centerpiece of transportation policy in Northern Virginia. Photo: ##http://www.lemunyon.com/?page_id=2## LeMunyon.com##
Virginia House Delegate Jim LeMunyon wants to make highways and congestion reduction the centerpiece of transportation policy in Northern Virginia. Photo: ##http://www.lemunyon.com/?page_id=2## LeMunyon.com##

House Bills 1998 and 1999, put forward by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax), have been dubbed the “Anti-Livability” bills by local transportation reformers. HB 1998 seeks to mandate that congestion reduction be used as the primary criterion for evaluating transportation projects. HB 1999 would require that highway construction take priority in all funds flowing from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Dan Malouff, a transportation planner with the Arlington County Department of Transportation, said his organization has been watching the bills with concern, particularly HB 1999, which employs the more hard-line inducement of the purse strings.

“If 1999 passed, we would be very strictly reduced to spending money only on a few key highways,” Malouff said. “It means we can’t think about local growth. It means we can’t think about local streets. It means we can’t think about transit.”

“It essentially forces us to spend money only applying Band-aids instead of addressing real problems.”

Reporting on the progress of HB 1998, David Alpert of Streetsblog Network blog Greater Greater Washington said:

This bill is, in essence, the exact opposite of the USDOT’s “livability” push. That agency has been retooling the formulas for federal transit funding to move away from only favoring projects that move the most people the longest distance.

HB 1998, was passed out of committee with bi-partisan support on Tuesday for wider consideration in the House. HB 1999 remains in the Appropriations Committee.

According to sources in Arlington, a local pro-roads lobbying group, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, has been pushing the measures. The group is made up of construction, real estate, business and transportation interests.

Greater Greater Washington is encouraging Virginia residents to contact their local representatives and express opposition to the bills.

  • I really wonder how and why he would propose bills of this nature. Especially since they don’t appear to be rooted in anything that would bring about economic gain for the area.

  • I suppose it all depends on how they define “congestion reduction.” If that means only adding capacity, that’s bad news. But couldn’t there be a push to define “congestion reduction” as things like managed lanes, BRT, congestion charges, etc?

  • Allen Muchnick

    Proponents of this legislation should be careful what they wish for. The most effective ways to reduce congestion involve travel demand management, not expanded highway capacity.

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