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Virginians Offer Kaine Advice on Solving Traffic Woes

Timothy M. Kaine
At the Manassas airport, Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine (D) talks with Virginians about the state's transportation system. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)

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By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A short distance from one of the miles-long traffic jams that define life in suburban Washington, a standing-room-only crowd of commuters, elected officials, anti-tax crusaders, slow-growth activists and transportation advocates last night offered Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine (D) their solutions to what he called "the most urgent issue" of his term.

The town hall-style meeting, in a hangar at the Manassas airport, was Kaine's fourth during a statewide tour to rally support for efforts to improve Virginia's road and rail networks in advance of the 2006 General Assembly session.

Kaine plans another round of public meetings, including two in Northern Virginia on Saturday. One is scheduled for Walker Grant Middle School in Fredericksburg at noon, and the other will be held at the Leesburg airport at 3:45 p.m.

Ideas to improve the transportation system flowed freely from last night's crowd of about 400 people.

William Nelson, a single father who stood with a baby in his arms, said that Metro's Orange Line should be extended to Gainesville, that developers should pay more to solve traffic problems and that Virginia should build double-decker highways like those in Japan.

"If we cannot widen, why not build up?" the Manassas resident asked.

Michael Mohler, president of Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, told Kaine that response times to emergencies are increasing because of an inadequate transportation network. "We've never, ever kept pace as far as funding goes," Mohler said. "I don't see how we get to a solution without a dedicated source of revenue, which may require a tax increase."

Many lawmakers who will be crucial to whatever plans Kaine puts forth attended last night's meeting. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) told the future governor that "we all want to work with you. The election's over."

Kaine did not offer specific proposals during the get-together, which lasted more than an hour. Instead, he told the crowd that transportation is the most pressing problem facing the state and that he is committed to solving it.

He repeated a campaign promise to ensure that state revenue designed for transportation improvements will be used only for that purpose and to have "better land use and transportation planning," a line that drew applause.

Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, told Kaine and the crowd that "linking land use and transportation is such a critical need for us."

Kaine also emphasized that solutions would include more than just laying asphalt.

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