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Where’s the plan for Virginia’s roads?

By Sharon Bulova, Corey Stewart and Scott York,

Virginia faces a transportation crisis. As local elected leaders, we are deeply troubled by our deteriorating transportation infrastructure. That is why we joined with our colleagues from Virginia’s “urban crescent” this month to write the governor and General Assembly members to express our commitment to solving this crisis.

This crescent includes the urbanized areas of Northern Virginia, metro Richmond and Hampton Roads. These regions account for 68 percent of Virginia’s population, 72 percent of its jobs and $322 billion of its $407 billion gross product. Current state transportation revenue does not provide the funding required to maintain existing infrastructure and falls woefully short of covering the cost of building new multimodal forms of transportation in our regions. Underfunded transportation infrastructure is a costly, damaging economic burden levied on the region’s businesses, commuters and families.

Without adequate investment in transportation, businesses will choose to expand or locate elsewhere. The urban crescent’s economy will decline, and so too will the productive strength of the Virginia economy.

In 2010, congestion consumed 189,000 hours of people’s time in the D.C. metro area, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2011 Urban Mobility Report. Commuters in the metro area spent an average of 74 hours in traffic, wasting millions of dollars on gasoline while contributing to pollution.

These facts, while important and troubling, are minuscule compared to the fact that our state as a whole has declined in competitiveness as a direct result of underfunding transportation. In CNBC’s latest rankings of America’s Top States for Business, Virginia fell from No. 1 to No. 3. The principal reason? Virginia dropped 23 spots in the category for Infrastructure and Transportation, falling to No. 33.

The situation continues to worsen. Virginia remains without a plan to identify adequate and sustainable funding for transportation, even though 34 percent of roads are already in poor condition. To make matters worse, the state will run out of available funds for highway construction by 2017, no longer able even to match federal funds. This is worth repeating; without a solution to this crisis, Virginia will no longer be able to receive federal funds for road construction. Federal gas tax dollars paid by Virginians will go to other states for their roads.

No state can sustain a vibrant economy without a viable transportation network. This is as much a business issue as a transportation issue, and since transportation is fundamentally a state responsibility, the commonwealth must take determined action to solve this problem. While we understand that efforts have been made to address transportation issues in Virginia, sustainable solutions have not yet been enacted. Virginia critically needs transportation solutions that significantly increase state transportation funding from stable, reliable and permanent revenue sources.

We want to work with the governor and General Assembly to develop solutions. We cannot let Northern Virginia slip into decline. We are committed to ending our transportation crisis. We would like our partners in the General Assembly and the governor to join us.

Sharon Bulova, a Democrat, is chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Corey Stewart, a Republican, is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Scott York, a Republican, is chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

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