Friday, July 11, 2008

Building Roads is What Government Does

The government of the Commonwealth of Virginia continues to stumblebumble its way through transportation policy. Classic city vs. rural, Republican vs. Democrat battle going on here. Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia need enlightened transportation solutions. More roads, different kinds of roads, mass transit, etc. All of this costs money. This is what government (especially state government) is supposed to do. Additionally, this is what the federal government is supposed to do (see interstate commerce clause, US Constitution).

But the Republicans in Richmond have done a fine job of locking down any real enhancements to Virginia's roads by allowing rural interests to cause a stalemate. Virginia needs better transit; I'm sure the fine Republicans in Richmond could get busy with finding offsets in the budget from other superfluous programs to contribute to road building. Maybe the lottery proceeds should go to transportation (but wait, then education would be underfunded, as the Virginia Legislature walked away from its fiduciary duties to state education when the lottery goose laid its golden egg.)

I'm a conservative, I'm a Republican, and I am embarrassed at the conduct of the Virginia GOP.


Anonymous said...

I recently drove a toll road out past Dulles. It was a beautiful highway in the middle of nowhere. Gorgeous open country the likes of which I suspect will not be there much longer. No, soon, now that we have this oversized artery permeating the remnants of agrarian Virginia, we will have more of the belching sprawl of overpriced housing, fast food places and strip malls. To what end? I'm thankful the VA GOP is listening to their "rural interests". Rural is what makes Virginia so darned beautiful. The Balt/DC/Richmond corridor is big enough. It also, everybit of it, drains to the Chesapeake Bay. Let's leave a little natural runoff absorption in the watershed. Thanks GOP. I don't want to pay higher taxes to invest in de-greening my state. Oh, and if those who choose to live on the outskirts of metro areas have to sit in traffic for longer and longer periods, maybe they'll move closer to their work which tends to gentrify inner cities...the kind of progress I especially like to see. There is plenty of room to live and work and shop and play in the metro area right now. Gas prices are too high to commute from two hours away anyway. We don't need all these new highways to nowhere. Oh, btw, there was a large, shiny new sign on this 65mph toll had a picture of a turtle and it said "give turtles a brake". Really? How many more obscenely stupid expenditures of highway construction taxes are there? No, CW, GOP has it right here.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

You make a lot of fine points, and I too yearn for the 1950's (after all, I am a conservative). But those days are gone and they ain't comin' back. The gentrification movement you yearn for just doesn't cut it for families who want to have children. They want a house with a yard for their little Dauphins et Dauphines.

That said, I'm really not advocating highways to nowhere. I'm advocating more capacity on current highways. I-66 within the beltway is 2 lanes each way....I-395 deadends at New York Ave in DC (I know, not VA, but go with me on this). There are certain high capacity traffic areas where a little thoughtful engineering and some additional investment would relieve heavy traffic. The mixing bowl project in Northern VA is a perfect example of a serious plan to make things better that is working. And anyone trying to LEAVE Hampton Roads at the end of a workday gets treated to the pinching clog of the Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel.

Although I speak largely of roads in my post, I also speak of mass transit. Are you similarly against upgrades in moving people more efficiently, or is it simply the tax issue upon which you wish to focus?

Either way, thanks for a superbly written and reasoned response to my post. Please keep reading and writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, such a complement from you is a prized possession. No, I am not against more efficiently moving people, but I am against building bigger roads as a seedbed for development. That is precisely what the intention (at least as I've read about it) of the Dulles rail project was. I am all for such improvements (for safety, fuel conservation, improved commerce, etc) as the Springfield mixing bowl (one of the better run projects that I have ever seen, by the way). And the other areas you suggest, I agree are in total need of some means of relief. Perhaps the solution here is to stop building roads for the sake of spurring development and start fixing the roads where we have already developed so much. As we've learned from Metro, mass transit is only as good as those running it. I think Metro is a very capable system. I think its management could use some serious help. Pensions are out of whack with the work required. Likewise with wages. They've stopped enforcing the eating and drinking rules and the cars are becoming filthy and uninviting. Not to mention the hoodlums (I'm being nice) that add to riders' discomfort. I finally stopped riding metro and chose to start driving myself to work for those reasons. I got tired of challenging the odds that I would be stabbed or beaten every time I tried to tell a bunch of younger citizens (I'm being nice again) to watch their language or to get out of the seats reserved for elderly and handicapped people who were forced to stand because they were sitting there eating their french fries and milk shakes. Anyway, I'm not proposing a total ban on such improvements. I'm saying, do them smartly, within existing budgets and with a priority to serving existing tax payers...not to drawing in more and more taxpayers. If we tax at a constant rate, and our wages grow commensurate with inflation, shouldn't the tax revenue also grow with inflation without raising the rate? Of course. The reason we need to conitnually raise new taxes (either by raising the rate or by building new roads to new houses for new taxpayers to add to the coffers) is because our legislators, too many of them, and out civil servants (almost all of them) don't appreciate that they are responsible for a significant percentage of what each of us earn each day. there simply isn't enough reverence for that fact. and so budgets grow. and turtles get signs on superhighways.

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