What Does Virginia’s New Governor Owe the State on Transportation?

In a lean season for in-depth transportation debate, the Virginia gubernatorial contest — won this week by Republican Bob McDonnell — became a proving ground for nationally relevant questions about how to manage the infrastructure of congestion-plagued but still-growing metro areas.

379311000.jpgVirginia Gov.-elect McDonnell (R) at his first press conference yesterday. (Photo: Virginian-Pilot)

Which makes Robert McCartney’s Washington Post Metro column today worth a read, even for those outside of the D.C. area. McCartney begins with the premise that Northern Virginia, which chose McDonnell after trending Democratic for more than a decade, has earned some "payback" from the governor-elect.

What’s the first item on McCartney’s list? Sadly, it’s "Find money for roads." He seems to be using the "road" frame even to refer to transit projects:

McDonnell should lock in dedicated funding for the Metrorail system and
ensure that the Silver Line is built to Dulles Airport and beyond. He
should add the proposed high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on interstates
395 and 95. He should do something for I-66, too, although admittedly
our region is sharply divided on whether to widen it inside the

In fact, the region is just as sharply divided over whether to add HOT lanes to those two highway, a project that was put on hold in August and faces legal threats from local residents.

As David Alpert has observed, there’s a big difference between constructing new HOT lanes (which ultimately encourages more congestion and has yet to pay for itself) and converting existing lanes to variable tolling (which has shown it can make money). McCartney’s column makes no attempt to acknowledge that distinction.

On the subject of Metrorail, the nation’s only transit system without a dedicated revenue stream, McDonnell’s transport plan is mum about the importance of making sure the federal government follows through on its recent authorization of $150 million in annual matching funds.

Meanwhile, the White House budget for next year did not include money for Metrorail — Congress later added the money, but the bill has yet to be signed into law. McCartney’s urging that the governor-elect "lock in" dedicated transit money is a sound one, but it makes one wonder why the Post waited until after Election Day to press the issue.


Is Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Pulling a Scott Walker?

Just yesterday Virginia was receiving accolades for its successful, bipartisan rail expansion efforts. But the praise is giving way to criticism today. There are some weird politics going on in the commonwealth, which appear to be part of a grudge match between Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and public officials in transit-friendly northern Virginia. David Alpert […]

Shock or Yawn? Virginia’s GOP Governor Backs Highway User Fees

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has won over many conservatives by reviving the state’s recognition of Confederate History Month and attempting to declare the White House health care bill invalid within its borders, today proposed to add tolls to Interstate 95 along the North Carolina border. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) (Photo: LAT) McDonnell announced […]

VA Gov Bob McDonnell Boots Bypass Opponent From State Transpo Board

Well, there’s no longer any question whose side Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is on when it comes to the controversial Western Bypass in Charlottesville. Whether the locals favor this project or not, the 6.2 mile, $300 million bypass, just north of the University of Virginia, clearly has some friends in high places. Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville […]