Two Northern Virginia legislators introduced a bill today to remake the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission into a stronger agency on which appointees of the state highway commissioner and the governor would constitute a majority of members.
Del. Carrington Williams (D-Fairfax) sponsor of the bill in the House of Delegates, said his proposal is an attempt to get more political and financial support from the state government to help solve Northern Virginia's transportation problems.
A remade transportation agency would replace NVTC, a state-created regional body that coordinates planning for mass transit in the Washington suburbs and is a conduit for funds to the regional Metro transit system.
"The NVTC has become mostly a debating society. It does not have the politicial and financial clout it needs," Williams said it an interview. "We need a group that's got more clout with Metro in Washington and with the highway department in Richmond."
John Purdy, an Arlington County Board member who served as chairman of the NVTC last year, said the bill "does not go far enough to make it acceptable to all the jurisdictions involved."
Purdy said some members of Northern Virginia governing bodies feel a new agency should consist of a majority of elected officials from the jurisdictions or their appointees.
"I personally favor a reduction in the number of those appointed by the governor," Purdy said.
Some NVTC commissioner also have indicated that a new agency with more powers would be useful only if the state also provides some financing for transportation programs or some mechanism for financing them.
Under the bill, NVTC would change its name to the Northern Virginia's Transportation Agency. Five of its members would be appointed to four-year terms by the governor, and one seat would be held by the commissioner of highways and transportation. The other five positions would be for one representative each from Fairfax and Arlington counties, and Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax City. Each representative would serve one year and be appointed by the individual jurisdictions.
Two of the gubernatorial appointments would be from Fairfax County and the other three from the rest of the transportation district, the bil states.
NTVC has 71 commissioners, including 11 members from the five jurisdictions, one from the highway departments, and five members of the General Assembly.
The idea for the bill, which has been supported by many members of the Northern Virginia delegation, grew out of a study of Northern Virginia transportation needs by a task force of the GOvernor's Council on Transportation.
The responsibilities of the new agency would include planning all ground transportation in the transportation district and the regulation of bus transit systems to supplement Metrobus.
State-Sen. Omer L. Hirst (D-Annandale), who served on the transportation council and introduced the bill in the Senate, said that traffic congestion is "destroying the quality of life" in Northern Virginia.
"The existing agency (NVTC) is not sufficiently cohesive and is caught up in the parochial aspects of jurisdictional representation," Hirst said. The new agency will let the governor have some responsibility for the well-being of the commission by assuring the state government a voice, he added.
A companion bill also was introduced yesterday to establish a separate highway construction district for Northern Virginia that would include Prince William and Loudoun counties and the other five jurisdictions. The area now is part of a much larger construction district.