A special report on easing traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia and other congested areas makes a stronger case for new regional taxes and tolls than transit experts spelled out last week in discussing their early findings, touching off a blistering attack from Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R).
The 55-page report, commissioned by Gilmore and sent to him late Wednesday, details a long menu of financing proposals that state government and localities could undertake, with or without new taxes, to ease worsening congestion on interstates and feeder highways.
Gilmore and his special transit commission declined to release the report, which was discussed in draft form at a meeting Monday of the panel, chaired by J. Kenneth Klinge of Alexandria.
That discussion, centering on possible new regional taxing authorities and toll roads, drew an immediate rebuke from Gilmore, who devoted his monthly radio show in the Washington area the next day to a promise not to subject Northern Virginians "to the wolves of tax increases."
The study's final version, obtained by The Washington Post, issues an urgent call to Virginia's political and business leaders for an aggressive rethinking of the ways in which the state approaches highway financing and construction.
"Virginia must renovate its concept of a transportation system," Klinge told Gilmore in a letter accompanying his group's report.
Following Gilmore's lead in a major address he made last summer, the Klinge commission outlined several ideas for long-term funding schemes that avoid new taxes by, among other things, reshuffling money to put an additional $300 million to work for roads.
However, the panel also went beyond its draft discussion in raising repeatedly the option of novel solutions such as regional taxing authorities that Virginia has generally dismissed in recent years, even as traffic jams increased.
Throughout the report, the commission said that any new levies "must be developed in a manner that incorporates the principle of taxation by representation."
Having paid tribute to Gilmore's staunch anti-tax stance, the panel said that "there is a need in a new and ever-growing commonwealth for a new and modern framework" for transit funding and planning.
"Virginia's citizens deserve no less!" the commission wrote. "This situation needs to be addressed!"
For example, the panel embraced the concept of toll roads, saying they have "been greatly expanded nationwide" and provide "new sources of revenue" for road-building.
The commission singled out the Dulles Greenway, between Dulles International Airport and Leesburg, as a toll road built with private money for public use and called on the Gilmore administration to expand "Smart Tag" technology, which allows motorists to race through toll plazas with the help of a tiny electronic transponder on their vehicles.
In a brief interview last week, Gilmore reiterated his opposition to major components of the Klinge report, saying, "I can't support anything that's going to raise transportation taxes on the people of Northern Virginia."
M. Boyd Marcus Jr., the governor's chief of staff, said yesterday that his boss's message was clear: "Exhaust every other option before you come talk to me about taxes.
"Look at how you solve the problems the hard way, instead of taking money out of people's pockets, which is the easy way," said Marcus, who was attending a state Republican Party meeting in Northern Virginia.
State Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (R-Fairfax), also at the GOP conference, said Gilmore was trying fairly to coax the General Assembly into thinking creatively about transit financing, although Rust expressed the shared regional frustration about the consequences of gridlock.
"Ultimately, we've got to allocate more revenue to transportation," said Rust, a budget expert in the legislature. "We either have to find it in the budget or someplace else."
Of Gilmore, Rust said: "He's driving us to do that evaluation. That's healthy."