And fewer Virginians say that increasing spending for transportation is as important as five years ago, even as the state faces dwindling resources and escalating needs, the poll found.
Poll respondents say they would prefer to reduce spending on other government services over raising taxes, increasing tolls or selling the naming rights to roads and bridges to pay for transportation projects.
Funding for transportation loomed large in this year’s General Assembly
which went into overtime so lawmakers could approve a state budget and will conclude two months late, on Monday.
Democrats held up the $85 billion budget for six weeks in part to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars for Dulles rail, but they were unsuccessful. Democrats and Republicans helped kill efforts to increase the gas tax and divert sales tax from services to transportation.
That has left Virginia without a significant source of new revenue this year for what has long been considered one of the state’s most vexing problems.
Jon Billings, a Republican from Clarksville in Southside Virginia, said state spending on transportation is already wasteful, and that the Dulles rail project would only add to that.
“They need to save as much money as they can, any way they can,” said Billings, 32, a commercial refrigeration repair technician. “You go down the road, you go through a work zone, and you’ve got 18 people there, most of them standing on the side of the road, having a conversation, and one guy patching the pothole. . . . They could do away with the rest.”
Not surprisingly, the poll found a huge disparity between those who live in Northern Virginia, one of the nation’s most congested regions, and those in other parts of the state, including rural areas.
Statewide, 32 percent of those surveyed describe the Silver Line extension as extremely or very important, compared with 64 percent who say it is not.
In the Washington suburbs, including Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria, 67 percent say the project is important, with 41 percent calling it extremely important. But in the remaining parts of the state it’s 25 percent.
The effort in the legislature to secure an additional $300 million for Dulles rail was led by Northern Virginia Democrats concerned about the escalating tolls in the region that would pay for the second phase of the Silver Line. The equally divided Senate killed the proposal after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said he would not spend more than $150 million.
The first phase of the $6 billion Silver Line is under construction from Falls Church to Reston and is expected to open in late 2013. Construction on the second part of the project, which will run to Dulles and into Loudoun County, is expected to start in January.