Kaine Starts Fresh Push For Transit Funding
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
During a daylong tour of Northern Virginia yesterday by bus, rail and SUV, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine pledged to push anew for transportation dollars and growth controls when the General Assembly convenes in January.
Kaine (D) acknowledged, however, that persuading House Republican leaders to raise taxes for roads will be difficult so soon after they refused to do so during a special session in September that was called to resolve transportation issues. The lawmakers are up for reelection next year.
That's why the governor plans to focus on spending the $339 million that even Republicans agree can be found in the state budget without raising taxes. He also said he will again concentrate on giving local governments more authority to reject unwanted development.
"I'm realistic," Kaine said. "There was a compromise proposal that House Republicans patched together during the special session that the finance committee killed. I don't believe the Republicans on the finance committee are going to suddenly change their minds."
Kaine campaigned for governor last year in part by saying he would do more to encourage smart growth, and upon taking office in January, he bucked many of his contributors in the development industry by proposing several measures to give local governments more tools to reject development.
During his trip yesterday, with stops in Sterling, Reston, Herndon and Arlington County and a Metro ride from Vienna to Ballston, Kaine emphasized that theme by celebrating teleworking, public transit and Arlington's success with such transit-oriented districts as Clarendon.
Without intending to, Kaine also confronted head-on one of the leading growth-related questions facing Northern Virginia: whether to dig a tunnel or an elevated track for the planned extension of Metrorail through busy Tysons Corner.
Kaine initially had pushed for the tunnel but backed off when he was convinced that it would be more costly and could threaten approval from the Federal Transit Administration. In recent weeks, a group of political, business and civic leaders from Fairfax County has formed to revive the tunnel.
On the train from Vienna, several tunnel supporters confronted the governor and asked for his continued advocacy. Kaine told them that he agrees the tunnel is the better choice but that the agency that needs to be persuaded is the Federal Transit Administration. And the chances of its support are not great, he added.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good," Kaine said.
"All we've heard is that it's dead, it's dead, it's over," said Scott Monett of the group TysonsTunnel.org, which plans to raise $3 million to make the case to the FTA that a tunnel is still feasible. "It was nice to hear he still supports us."
Kaine weighed in yesterday on another Northern Virginia land-use question, commenting on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors' recent decision to consider a 12-month moratorium on home building to send a message to Richmond that more money is needed for roads.
The governor said that Prince William voters ought to contact two of their state delegates -- L. Scott Lingamfelter and Jeffrey M. Frederick, two Republicans on the House Finance Committee who helped defeat the major transportation proposals in September. If voters really want transportation solutions out of Richmond, Kaine said, they might think about replacing those two.
"I understand their frustration," Kaine said. "It's a huge frustration. But the good news is it can be solved. All it takes to solve it is to make that change."
Lingamfelter said last night that he stands by his votes because they make good on his promise to oppose higher taxes. "I have kept my promise," Lingamfelter said. "Governor Kaine has not."
Kaine gave few details yesterday on the initiatives he plans to promote during the legislative session. He is likely to try again to allow local governments to reject developers' rezoning requests when the existing road network is not adequate to serve the new homes. The legislature is also likely to take up proposals that would leave developers responsible for maintenance of the subdivision roads they build for a longer period -- perhaps several years -- than current rules require.
Another proposal being discussed by lawmakers would strengthen regulations governing how roads must be built if they are to be accepted into the state maintenance system. For example, developers might be required to connect roads between subdivisions to enable better traffic flow.
Kaine also will revisit his major slow-growth success this year, a measure authorizing the Virginia Department of Transportation to measure regional traffic impact of development proposals. At his request, VDOT conducted a pilot study this year of a Loudoun County proposal that would have allowed as many as 33,800 homes in a 9,200-acre area west of Dulles International Airport.
The study caused a furor among developers, who accused Kaine of meddling in local land-use decisions. Now, when the General Assembly must develop permanent regulations to guide the study process, he is likely to encounter more opposition than he did last winter, when the bill authorizing the pilot study sailed through the legislature.
It is also, however, likely to encounter renewed support from anti-sprawl advocates, who believe the publicity surrounding the VDOT study helped defeat the Dulles South proposal this month.
"It made all the difference," said Andrea McGimsey, who leads the anti-sprawl group Campaign for Loudoun's Future. "Before that study came out, it was kind of a he-said, she-said. It laid the controversy to rest. We knew it was going to cause traffic."
Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.
Kaine will be a guest on "Ask the Governor" at 9 a.m. today on Washington Post Radio, 107.7 FM, 1500 AM or www.washingtonpostradio.com.