Transportation Plans Are Short on Details

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Although they call traffic congestion a crisis and pledge fixes, neither of the major-party candidates for governor has proposed detailed plans that explain how Virginians will be able to get moving again.

The main ingredient missing in the speeches, news conferences and advertisements by Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) is how they plan to raise the billions of dollars that state studies, transportation experts and the candidates themselves say are necessary to address an ever-increasing list of transit and highway needs.

"I think Lieutenant Governor Kaine and [former] attorney general Kilgore have both laid out some programmatic and philosophical underpinnings of transportation plans," said Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. "How that would translate into actual revenues and projects? I think that's a great question."

Transportation advocates say the candidates have also failed to detail how they plan to settle long-fought disputes that are key to many of their proposals, such as widening Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway and persuading localities to plan their growth differently.

The lack of detail has left transportation advocates wondering what will change for commuters after the Nov. 8 election. Asked what would be different under a Kilgore administration, Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, said: "I don't know."

And under Kaine? "Well," Chase said, "it's kind of the same thing."

The centerpiece of Kilgore's approach is to farm out decision making, allowing officials in Northern Virginia and other regions to make their own planning and financing choices.

The regional authorities would have the power to hold referendums on tax increases that could fund new projects, though Kilgore has said he opposes tax increases. That course is similar to the one taken by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), who backed unsuccessful ballot measures in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads three years ago.

"I trust people in regions more than I trust centralized VDOT to make decisions about important road projects," Kilgore said, referring to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Kilgore pledged to use money from the state's general fund for transportation. The general fund finances schools, public safety, health care and other priorities. Some legislative leaders, particularly in the Senate, oppose widening the competition for general fund resources to include transportation needs.

"We need to be committed to more spending, and I think we go to the revenue source that's growing fastest, and that's the general fund," Kilgore said. Kilgore also said the state could raise $100 million a year by levying stiff fines on aggressive drivers, drunk drivers and habitual offenders.

Kaine's approach includes many of the points that advocates of controlled growth have made in recent years, including better coordinating land-use planning and transportation projects.


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