Correction: The article about a Virginia transportation conference led by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) incorrectly said that the Dulles Metrorail extension will cost $7 billion. The project’s estimated cost is $5.6 billion. This version has been corrected.
You can understand if Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was a bit late to a transportation conference Wednesday in Tysons Corner.
The traffic did it.
Getting from here to there in Virginia is “an important quality-of-life issue,” McDonnell told hundreds of transportation officials, legislators and business people who doubtless already knew that. Cars lurched along Leesburg Pike outside the conference site, while workers continued building Metro’s new Silver Line.
As the three-day Governor’s Transportation Conference began, McDonnell (R) discussed the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is responsible for construction of the $5.6 billion Metrorail extension to Tysons and Dulles International Airport. The agency was pilloried in a recent report for ethical lapses.
McDonnell said that when he took office, the agency was “neither responsive nor responsible” in its actions. But he said that in working with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others, officials have brought needed changes to MWAA and the Silver Line project.
With chief executive Jack Potter and new board members, MWAA is getting back on track, McDonnell said. “It’s a very good board” now, although there is more work to be done, he added.
In his address on the first day of the three-day conference, McDonnell praised public-private partnerships, citing the opening of the I-495 Express Lanes last month. Such deals, he said, are vital as the state grapples with increasing needs.
McDonnell said he will submit a transportation funding plan to the General Assembly that would generate at least $500 million each year in additional funding by 2018. He said he will release some details in coming weeks.
The state now has $14 billion in projects under construction or being developed, McDonnell said.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said that McDonnell is “just talking about spending more money,” not necessarily improving the state’s network of roads.
Much of the funds are going toward highway projects at the expense of secondary roads and improving existing road, Schwartz said. More money won’t change that, he said.
“In the end, we think it’s going to pour a lot of money down a black hole,” Schwartz said.